The Substance: cast, plot, reviews and everything we know about the Demi Moore movie

Demi Moore in The Substance
Demi Moore in The Substance (Image credit: MUBI)

There's always a breakout movie at the Cannes Film Festival, and one of the early contenders for that title is the 2024 new movie, The Substance from Coraline Fargeat and starring the popular 90s actress Demi Moore, in what could be something of a comeback role on the big screen.

The Substance is the latest entry in the body-horror genre, which has seen some cult favorite movies from the likes of David Cronenberg (Crimes of the Future, The Fly), Julia Ducournau (Titane, Raw) and John Carpenter (The Thing, Prince of Darkness), among others. With early buzz describing The Substance as "spectacular and revolting" and "a diabolically delightful B movie that brings laughs, thrills and blood… lots and lots of blood," we may have another strong entry to the genre on our hands.

Interested? Here is everything you need to know about The Substance.

The Substance release date

The Substance had its world premiere at the 2024 Cannes Film Festival and there are plans to release the movie in theaters in the US, the UK, Latin America, Germany, Turkey, Canada, the Netherlands, India and more, but at this time we don't have any information on when that release is going to be.

The Substance cast

The main stars of The Substance are Demi Moore as Elizabeth Sparkle, Margaret Qualley as Sue and Dennis Quaid as Harvey.

As we said, Moore was at the peak of her stardom in the 1990s, starring in the likes of Ghost, A Few Good Men and Indecent Proposal. While she has continued working pretty steadily since then, she hasn't led as many high-profile projects in a while, which is what makes The Substance an exciting prospect for her as the movie generates buzz. In addition to the movie, 2024 has also seen her star in the limited series Feud: Capote vs the Swans.

On the flip side, Qualley has been a rising star in recent years, starring in The Leftovers, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Maid and, most recently, Drive-Away Dolls. The Substance is actually the second movie she had premiere at the 2024 Cannes Film Festival, the other being Yorgos Lanthimos' Kinds of Kindness.

Quaid is a long-time Hollywood veteran, known for things like The Right Stuff, The Rookie, Far From Heaven and The Parent Trap. Like his co-stars, he's been busy recently, as since 2023 he has appeared in On a Wing and a Prayer, Full Circle, Strays, The Hill, The Long Game and Lawmen: Bass Reeves.

Other members of The Substance cast include Hugo Diego Garcia, Joseph Balderrama, Oscar Lesage, Gore Abrams and Matthew Géczy. 

Margaret Qualley in The Substance

Margaret Qualley in The Substance (Image credit: MUBI)

The Substance plot

An original script by Fargeat, here is the synopsis for The Substance, a little different than your typical synopsis:

“Have you ever dreamt of a better version of yourself?
You. Only better in every way.
You've got to try this new product. It's called The Substance.

“It generates another you.
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 trailer

There is no trailer for The Substance at this time, but MUBI has released an official clip from the movie that you can watch right here: 

The Substance reviews

Critics have begun to weigh in on The Substance with their reviews following the movie's premiere at the Cannes Film Festival. The early buzz on the movie is very strong, as it has a perfect 100% "Fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes as of May 20. 

Coralie Fargeat movies

The Substance is Fargeat's second feature-length movie, following her 2017 movie Revenge, which also received strong reviews. Her other major credit so far in her career is directing an episode of Netflix's The Sandman

Michael Balderston

Michael Balderston is a DC-based entertainment and assistant managing editor for What to Watch, who has previously written about the TV and movies with TV Technology, Awards Circuit and regional publications. Spending most of his time watching new movies at the theater or classics on TCM, some of Michael's favorite movies include Casablanca, Moulin Rouge!, Silence of the Lambs, Children of Men, One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest and Star Wars. On the TV side he enjoys Only Murders in the Building, Yellowstone, The Boys, Game of Thrones and is always up for a Seinfeld rerun. Follow on Letterboxd.