‘The Substance’ Trailer: Demi Moore and Margaret Qualley Get Bloody, Crash Cars in Cannes-Winning Body-Horror Nightmare

Demi Moore and Margaret Qualley learn the price of perfection — and the pressure of the male gaze — in the first red band trailer for director Coralie Fargeat’s Cannes body-horror sensation “The Substance.”

The film tells the story of a former Hollywood star (Moore) whose career decline lands her in Jane Fonda-style fitness-show territory. Upon being fired, she’s offered a revolutionary medical treatment named The Substance, promising to deliver a younger, enhanced version of herself.

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The engaging teaser trailer starts with Moore gazing into a mirror, accompanied by a mesmerizing voiceover: “Have you ever dreamt of a better version of yourself?”

This question sets the stage for a thrilling first look, packed with high-energy imagery. We see Dennis Quaid disgustingly chomping on food, unsettling shower sequences, the mysterious “activation” serum, and Moore violently flying across a room onto a table. Adding to the intrigue, Moore angrily smears lipstick across her face, and Qualley wraps up the teaser with a sly wink.

“The Substance” made a grand entrance onto the 2024 cinematic scene at the Cannes Film Festival, earning an enthusiastic 11-minute standing ovation. It also snagged the best screenplay prize from the jury.

Variety’s chief film critic, Owen Gleiberman, lauded the film’s daring approach, particularly praising its direction, style, and standout performances. He wrote, “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 center 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.”

Mubi has acquired the movie for North American distribution, and will release the film exclusively in theaters.

Produced by five-time Oscar-nominated duo Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner (“Elizabeth,” “Atonement,” “Les Misérables,” “The Theory of Everything,” and “Darkest Hour”), along with Fargeat, who also penned the script, “The Substance” marks Fargeat’s second directorial feature after her intense action-thriller “Revenge” (2017).

This year is shaping up to be monumental for Moore, who is not only in the Emmys conversation for her role in FX’s “Feud: Capote vs. The Swans” but also stars alongside Billy Bob Thornton and Jon Hamm in Taylor Sheridan’s upcoming Paramount+ series “Landman,” premiering on Nov. 17. Moore’s illustrious four-decade career, which boasts memorable roles in films such as “Ghost” (1990) and “Indecent Proposal” (1993), has put her front and center in the hunt her first Oscar nomination for best actress. Qualley’s equally superb work could also factor into the awards discussion, as well as the stellar makeup and hair execution.

“The Substance” will open nationwide on Sept. 20.

Watch the trailer below.

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