The Substance: gore and body horror In Competition


“Lay down some tarp, because there’s going to be a lot of blood.” Thierry Frémaux has warned us, Coralie Fargeat’s first entry In Competition could shake up the Grand Théâtre Lumière. Gore and body horror are on the agenda with The Substance.

“You, but better in every way.” That’s the promise of The Substance, a revolutionary product based on cell division, creating an alter ego that’s younger, more beautiful, more perfect. Elizabeth Sparkle (Demi Moore) discovers this new product in the trailer of a film. The rest of the plot remains a mystery but the tone has been set: hold on to your seat!

Everything leads us to believe that this enhanced version of Demi Moore will be played by Margaret Qualley, who also stars in Yorgos LanthimosKinds of Kindness.  Dennis Quaid rounds out the cast and returns to Competition after Walter Hill’s The Long Riders (1980) and Alan Parker’s Come See the Paradise.

If The Substance marks an American turn in Coralie Fargeat’s filmography, the French director seems to be returning to a theme that she explored in her short film Reality+ (2013). As with The Substance, the title used the name of a futuristic technology, a chip implanted in the brain that allows you to see yourself as, and be seen as, a model.

Five years later, in 2018, Coralie Fargeat attracted attention with Revenge, her first, and bloody, feature film. The film follows a bimbo left for dead in the desert after a rape, and who returns with a thirst for vengeance, rifle in hand. A jubilant and impressive film, already full of gore, and very feminist, which earned her flattering comparisons with Julia Ducournau, winner of the Palme d’or for Titane in 2021.