Demi Moore Stars in Gory New Horror Film: The Substance

Demi Moore
Demi Moore | IMDB

Demi Moore’s physique has drawn attention for more than 40 years. Nine months pregnant and naked on the 1991 Vanity Fair cover. GI Jane, her muscles rippling. Under the spotlights of Striptease’s strip clubs. We saw her body once more in her latest horror movie, The Substance, which had the most buzz at its Cannes Film Festival debut. then once again, and once more. But this time, it’s more gnarly. Two hideous flaps of skin on either side of Moore’s spine are left behind when a younger lady emerges from her back. Moore ages and decays throughout the movie, every wrinkle captured on camera with a sultry, gummy sense of sadism. That may be her surprise ticket to the Oscars.

The film, which drew a thunderous 11-minute standing ovation at its Cannes premiere last night, stars Moore as a faded Hollywood star whose desire for youth drives her to undergo an experimental procedure. After being injected with an unknown fluid, she gives birth to a younger, more attractive version of herself, played by Margaret Qualley, whose body she can only ever occupy for a total of seven days at a time before having to return to her older self. Nothing will go according to plan if these Cinderella requirements are not met, as they inevitably are.

The film, which was directed by Coralie Fargeat in France, has already caused discussion. While some critics have praised it as a daring masterpiece, others have criticized it as a cliched Hollywood hagsploitation that doesn’t really say anything about women, aging, or Hollywood. Still, Moore is receiving the highest praise of her career. Moore has never truly taken a chance of this kind before, according to David Ehrlich of IndieWire.

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The places that danger leads her in the film’s truly insane final act will leave your jaw on the floor, if it’s still attached to your body. Moore is courageous as she takes on her biggest big-screen performance in decades, according to the BBC. Moore’s portrayal is filled with fury, dread, despair, and revenge, according to Variety. There have been rumors that she may unexpectedly win the Best Actress award at Cannes, catapulting her to the top of Oscar prediction lists for next year.

This is not often the type of talk that Moore starts. With Bruce Willis and Ashton Kutcher, her well-known ex-husbands, to speak about, why even bother talking about her performances? or lavish wages or naked scenes? (Back then, the media didn’t appreciate her for her demands for salary parity with male movie stars; instead, they mocked her and called her “Gimme Moore”). If you ignore the rumors, she is one of our most underappreciated character actors—a woman who has consistently transformed, subverted, and used her body to tell tales. Consider her more like the female version of Christian Bale than a bombshell from the 1990s.

Take a look at some of her most renowned roles. In 1993, she placed a value on her own body: a million dollars for a single night with it, redefining sex as a solely commercial activity. A year later, the sexual harassment thriller Disclosure characterized her mere presence in the office as an act of violence: she is so sexually confident and shamelessly unemotional about issues of the heart that men are rendered impotent.

Striptease and GI Jane and Moore were two notorious Moore flops—in 1996 and 1997, respectively—but both saw her push her body to its limits. In the former, her character turns to exotic dance to pay the bills; Moore’s nudity and her sculpted, toned physique made up the entirety of the film’s marketing campaign. For the latter, Moore bulked up and shaved her head to play a female Navy Seal.

GI and striptease Although Jane was a legendary Moore flop in 1996 and 1997, respectively, she pushed her body to the utmost in both of those years. In the former, Moore’s heroine resorts to exotic dancing as a means of making ends meet; her toned, sculpted body and nudity served as the film’s whole marketing campaign. Moore cut her hair and put on weight to play a female Navy Seal in the latter.

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Regardless of the standard of those movies, it was delightful to see Moore play these roles; her acting, physical attributes, and celebrity persona all came together to create a compelling whole. Only during this period did Moore start to question and challenge aspects of her own notoriety, which is when she started to develop into a very fascinating performer.

Unfortunately, that was also when the reaction began. Moore’s opponents were divided over her naked Vanity Fair cover, which is so culturally significant that it has its own Wikipedia page. “One camp called it disgusting pornography and accused me of exhibitionism,” she writes in her 2019 memoir, Inside Out. “Another saw it as a liberating breakthrough for women.” Moore was at the center of various cultural debates in Hollywood about female sexuality, equality, and power during the 1990s. Nobody spoke about her performance—her dogged determination in GI Jane or the haunting picture of her keeling over in anguish in the TV drama If These Walls Could Talk—when her character had endured a clandestine abortion.

Moore makes a bold move in The Substance, and there’s a meta thrill to her playing an actor mourning her heyday and fixated on age and experimental plastic surgery (she had to repeatedly deny spending $300,000 on cosmetic work before filming 2003’s Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle). But there’s also something very classic about her decision to appear in the film: Moore has always mocked her own image and the media’s fixation with her body, baring it, distorting it, and pushing it to extremes. If she captures Oscar’s attention, it will not be because she is doing something genuinely innovative and novel. People will finally pay heed.


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