Demi Moore, 61, stuns at The Substance photocall during return to Cannes Film Festival after 25 years – as the horror receives rave reviews and a 13-minute standing ovation

The Guardian


Well, the movie is ridiculous and a bit redundant towards the drawn-out end, but Moore savours the postmodern horror of her situation. 

In its trashiness – and, yes, its refusal of serious substance – The Substance should really be put out on VHS cassettes and watched at home in homage to the great era of home entertainment pulp and video-store masterpieces of weirdness and crassness. 

It reminded me of Michael Crichton’s neglected 80s pulp chiller Looker with Albert Finney as a sinister plastic surgeon. Fargeat delivers some shocks.

The Telegraph


If that science-fictional premise sounds wild, you haven’t heard the half of it. The Substance is a humdinger of a satirical horror-thriller, by turns hilarious, affecting and jaw-droppingly grotesque. 

It’s exactly the jolt of extravagantly stylised genre energy the Cannes Film Festival needed at this midway point, and Moore, making a mighty comeback, seizes the role as if her life depended on it.

BBC Culture 


Fargeat’s twisted tale is good fun, especially if you like to hear squelching, cracking and crunching noises as gruesome things are done to human flesh. (Anyone with a fear of needles should avoid The Substance at all costs.) 

The film also offers attention-grabbing roles for all three of its stars. Ripping into her best big-screen role in decades, Moore is fearless in parodying her public image, Qualley showcases a wicked sense of humour as Barbie’s evil twin, and Quaid hams it up joyously as an obnoxious, flashy-suited impresario. 

Hollywood Reporter

A gory fantasia that is a twisted cross between the classic films Sunset Blvd. and Freaks, it is one of the most out-there Cannes competition films since Titane — and, with the right mix of jurors, could follow that film to a major festival award, if not for the film then perhaps for Moore. 

Indie Wire

The Substance is a non-stop, go-until-you-gag epic that builds and builds and builds until it scars everyone in the audience with a deep-seated physiological aversion to the idea that we can ever hope to escape from ourselves. 

Fargaet’s movie escalates with the kind of ultra-confident audacity that leaves you laughing out loud at sights that would otherwise make you shriek instead, and it simply refuses to end until even Harvey himself is sickened by how society pressures women into shaping their bodies. 

And so, like any fairy tale worth its unforgettably frightening special effects, ‘The Substance’ concludes with a clear moral that it makes you want to believe in: There’s more beauty in freedom than there is freedom in beauty. And it’s absolutely gorgeous to watch Elisabeth Sparkle and Demi Moore help each other escape into the light of that truth.


Demi Moore’s performance is nothing short of fearless. She’s playing, in some very abstract way, a version of herself (once a star at the centre of the universe, now old enough to be seen by sexist Hollywood as past it), and her acting is rippled with anger, terror, despair, and vengeance. 

There’s a lot of full-on nudity in ‘The Substance,’ to the point that the film flirts with building a male gaze into the foundation of its aesthetic. Yet it does so only to pull the rug of voyeurism out from under us. Margaret Qualley makes Sue crisply magnetic in her confidence, and the fact that Sue knows how to package herself as an ‘object’ is part of the film’s satirical design. She’s following the rules, ‘giving the people what they want.’ 

It’s clear, I think, that Qualley is going to be a major star, and you see why here. She takes this stylized role and imbues it with a hint of mystery. For ‘The Substance’ is finally a story of dueling egos, with Elisabeth’s real self and her enhanced self going at each other in a war for dominance.