The Substance to close EIFF’s Midnight Madness strand

The eagerly awaited body horror The Substance – starring Demi Moore, Margaret Qualley and Dennis Quaid – will close the new Midnight Madness strand at this year's Edinburgh International Film Festival

Article by Jamie Dunn | 11 Jun 2024
  • The Substance

Watched from afar, this year’s Cannes Film Festival didn’t exactly set the heather on fire. But one film did appear to get critics hot and bothered: Coralie Fargeat’s darkly comic body horror The Substance, which received a raft of rapturous five-star reviews and a few notable pans. It certainly appears to be the most talked-about film at the festival, and Edinburgh audiences will get to assess the flavour of this buzzy marmite film themselves when it has its UK premiere as the closing film of EIFF’s new Midnight Madness strand.

The Substance is the second film from French maverick Coralie Fargeat, whose debut feature Revenge – a bloody and subversive rape-revenge thriller – has gained something of a cult following since its release in 2017. The Substance looks to cement her alongside the likes of Julia Ducournau and Gaspar Noé as one of France’s premiere provocateurs.

EIFF director Paul Ridd is excited to show The Substance to an Edinburgh audience. “Having experienced the legendary Midnight Madness premiere of Coralie Fargeat’s ferocious debut Revenge at Toronto a few years back,” he says, “I am truly honoured that our first ever Midnight Madness strand at EIFF will close out with her wildly entertaining second film.”

The Substance stars 80s Brat Pack alumnus and 90s Hollywood icon Demi Moore as a TV star who’s trying to deal with the pitiless beauty standards for women in her industry as she enters middle age and the roles begin to dry up. Her solution suggests Death Becomes Her by way of Robert Louis Stevenson. She signs up for an experimental new service that will give her a younger version of herself (played by Margaret Qualley) to be her avatar in the ageist entertainment industry. As you can imagine, things quickly go awry. 

“Hard to describe this masterpiece,” Ridd says of The Substance, “but if we said that it somehow fuses David Cronenberg, Brian Yuzna and Sunset Boulevard into a completely unique, sensory attack on hypocrisy and sexism, then that would only go halfway to describing the wild thrills that await the willing and the eager.”

The Substance screens at EIFF on 20 August and joins The Outrun, Nora Fingscheidt's adaptation of Amy Liptrot’s best-selling memoir, which opens the festival on 15 August. The full Edinburgh International Film Festival lineup will be announced on 10 July.