The Most Talked-About Movie Of The Cannes Film Festival Is A Body Horror ‘Epic’ Full Of Blood And Nudity

The most talked-about film of the 2024 Cannes Film Festival isn’t Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga, Horizon: An American Saga, or even Francis Ford Coppola’s long-in-the-works Megalopolis. It’s The Substance.

Directed by Coralie Fargeat (blood-soaked action thriller Revenge), the body horror film is about a product called The Substance, which “generates another you,” according to the official festival synopsis. “A new, younger, more beautiful, more perfect, you. And there’s only one rule: You share time. One week for you. One week for the new you. Seven days each. A perfect balance. Easy. Right? If you respect the balance… what could possibly go wrong?”

The Substance is being praised for its subversiveness, shocking finale, and stunning lead performances from Demi Moore and Margaret Qualley, who have several full-frontal nude scenes. Following the Cannes premiere, the film received anywhere from a 9- to 11- to 13-minute standing ovation. The festival really should hire someone whose entire job is timing the ovations.

Here are the early reviews for The Substance

David Ehrlich for Indiewire:

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.

Peter Bradshaw for The Guardian:

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.

Owen Gleiberman for Variety:

The Substance does indeed play off Showgirls and the whole history of Hollywood cat-fight melodramas. The movie, in its visceral way, is deliriously ambitious (and, at 140 minutes, easily 20 minutes too long). But as it moves into the final chapter, its relatively restrained interface with body horror erupts into something cathartic in its extremity.

Beyond Fest:

Cannes just got splattered. THE SUBSTANCE is the most batshitfuckinginsane movie of the last 20 years. It is on such a freakish level that it’s impossible to believe it exists. Demi Moore goes there and @coraliefargeat has carved a contemporary horror unlike anything you’ve seen.

Damon Wise for Deadline:

Fargeat rewards your patience with a finale that channels the pathos of Lynch’s Elephant Man and the fleshy absurdity of Brian Yuzna’s 1989 squishy cult classic Society. Squeamish viewers should steer clear, but, for Cannes audiences at least, The Substance ends with the most spectacular demise since Monty Python’s Mr. Creosote ate that final, fatal wafer-thin mint in 1983.

Chase Hutchinson for The Wrap:

While not as sensational as body horror films of festivals past, namely Raw and Titane, The Substance has all the right stuff on the inside. As we see everything come spilling out, it proves to be yet another stellar genre film from Fargeat after her 2017 feature debut, Revenge. The film may not have the same style, but it is a boldly stark work, ensuring you feel every punch in your gut all the same. Be warned: it won’t be easy to stomach for all.

The Substance does not have a release date, but check out the promo below.