In the last decade or so, steelbook variants have become their very own subculture for cinematic home releases. In the beginning, it was the packaging that stood out, the sturdy material being a touch more protective than the typical blue plastic containing Blu-rays and DVDs. This suggested, in the minds of collectors, a means of better protecting their property, whether for longevity of use or merely display. In the last few years, as special edition steelbooks became more common and easier to find, a shift took hold to focus on the artwork design of the steelbooks, both inside and out, as a means of garnering attention and interest from perspective owners new and old. The latest to release such a special edition is the 2018 horror/thriller A Quiet Place from Paramount Pictures, developed in conjunction with pop culture purveyor Mondo and featuring the art of Matt Ryan Tobin. The Mondo X Steelbook — #0038 in the collection — includes previously released featurettes totaling over 30 minutes, with the 4K UHD edition including a Dolby Atmos soundtrack and Dolby Vision for a high quality home viewing experience. This special edition is releasing just ahead of the highly anticipated sequel A Quiet Place Part II on March 10th, 2020.
If you’re unfamiliar with the premise of the film, it’s quite simple: Earth was invaded by vicious creatures who hunt using sound, quickly and violently killing anything that makes even the slightest perceptible noise. In order to protect their family, Lee and Evelyn Abbott (John Krasinski and Emily Blunt) alter their farm so that their children Regan (Millicent Simmonds), Marcus (Noah Jupe), and Beau (Cade Woodward) can have some semblance of a normal life, albeit one without speaking. When a tragedy befalls the family, they soldier on, unwilling to let their alien oppressors completely stomp out their lives. There is one foreboding problem: in a world where one tiny sound can bring on the hunters, how will the Abbotts survive the arrival of a newborn?
The story, developed in college from co-writers Bryan Woods and Scott Beck, asks the question about what life would be like if humanity was forced to live in silence to survive. As a people, we’re not known for our reticence, especially in a modern society of planes, trains, automobiles, cell phones, and portable music. That alone is interesting as a premise, but, with Krasinski’s influence, AQP became about a family in crisis and what happens when there’s a communication breakdown. As he mentions in bonus feature “Creating the Quiet,” Krasinski and Blunt had recently become parents when he took the role (before also taking on writing and directing duties) and that new facet of their lives brought out a specific vision for the story he wanted to tell. At the end of the world-building opening of the film, tragedy befalls the Abbotts because one sibling tried to do right by another, even though it was in direct disobedience to their parents’ instructions. In an ordinary world, the act of parental rebellion wouldn’t possess such harsh consequences, but the world of AQP isn’t ordinary at all, much more so than the terrible randomness of chance of which every parent worries about in some capacity as they raise their children. In this world, danger quite literally lurks in every corner. Every horror story possesses some form of subtext, elevating the horror from just uncomfortable to downright terrifying. It’s the way Halloween and Nightmare on Elm Street upended the safety of suburbia and how US explores society’s abandonment of the lesser fortunate. The monsters we so desperately try to evade have a tendency to come for us. In this case, the monsters come to represent the unknowable fears of parenting and how, without the ability to communicate, a family will suffer. To be clear, the fact that the family must communicate via sign language isn’t so much a subtextual concept as a real consequence of living in a world where sound will get you killed. Rather, it’s the fact that members of the family don’t listen to each other out of fear and regret for past mistakes. By reacting with anger at even the perception of a slight, this family on their own becomes even more solitary and vulnerable. A parent’s job, at its core biological level, is to bring new life into this world and prepare it for the dangers ahead. This is, perhaps, why the scene between Lee, Regan, and Marcus toward the end of the film lands like a sledgehammer to the gut. In this brief moment, a peace comes for the family as the ultimate sacrifice is made willingly and without regret.
The story is just one of the elements worth discussing as it explains why A Quiet Place resonates so much with audiences. There are two other critical aspects that combine to create the evocative cinematic experience worth revisiting again and again: the sound design and the creature design. Each of these are explored in some detail in the three featurettes included on the original home release, which the Mondo X Steelbook special edition includes as well. There are plenty of fun tidbits to be drawn out from the featurettes, but one worth sharing now is how the sound design of the film impacted the approach of shooting. Because so much of the film is in silence (there’s only about 3-minutes’ worth of spoken dialogue in the entirety), the expectation would be that the noise made on set could be amped, replaced, or edited as necessary in post. As explained in “The Sound of Darkness,” Krasinski actually made his crew get as quiet as possible on set in order for the natural sounds to come out in the background and to help the performances from the cast. So, while the foley artists did works with enhancing things like the sounds of feet on sand, Krasinski tried to bring out as many natural sounds as possible on set. With the crew noises reduced, sounds coming from wind, rivers, and other natural aspects could creep in and take hold more easily. In the other featurette, “A Reason for Silence,” the discussion of creature design is explored. Though some found the design a little uninspired compared to other properties (Geeks of Doom’s Adam Frazier compared the beasts to Stranger Things’s Demogorgon), the featurette explains the extensive thought process that went into creating the monsters, as well as how to best represent them on camera.
So, what’s really new about this physical release? The look of it. Inspired by Tobin’s sold out screen print, the outside and inside of the steelbook show off the night sky and the lit red lightbulbs Evelyn turns on when she goes into labor. In addition to adding to the creep factor as the film slowly reaches toward its climax, signifying simultaneously Evelyn’s need for help as well as the rising danger in the film, they are also a slight protective tool as they emit a slight tone that could potentially distract the monsters from finding their prey. This is just one of many details in AQP that show off just how detail-oriented Krasinski was in his production development. Even the discs themselves follow the motif as the 4K UHD disc depicts a red bulb and the Blu-ray disc is a normal, untinted bulb. Admittedly, the design’s spot gloss makes it difficult to admire in direct light, but, for steelbook collectors and fans of the film, the entire design is gorgeous and worth picking up.
Available in select locations beginning March 10th, 2020. To find a location near you, head to the official A Quiet Place 4K Steelbook release page.
A Quiet Place Blu-ray Bonus Features
- Creating the Quiet – Behind the Scenes of A Quiet Place (14:45)
- The Sound of Darkness – Editing Sound for A Quiet Place (11:43)
- A Reason for Silence – The Visual Effects of A Quiet Place (7:33)
Final (Film) Score: 4 out of 5.