March 20, 2023

Film Review – Chemsex (2015)



Vice may write some of the worst articles ever written in any language but their documentary division for the most part has been doing outstanding work for years. Their documentary Underground LSD Palace is one of the best documentaries I’ve seen despite running under 20 minutes and I want the film rights. Vice have been showing some longer form work on HBO in recent years so it’s natural they finally make a feature-length documentary. The resulting film is Chemsex which is a funny and shocking looking into the world of Chemsex within the Gay community in London.

The documentary unsurprising is inspired by a Vice article and the article was entitled “The Meth-Fuelled, Week-Long Orgies Ravaging London’s Gay Sex Party Scene”. Despite the sensationalist title it’s one of the better articles on Vice, the documentary may have some quite disturbing imagery but it’s done with a respect of the people who for the most it doesn’t seem like exploitation. It does at times fall into exploitation when you see people completely out of their heads fucking each other’s brains out but even that it shows the hedonistic world many of these men inhabit and the outside world really doesn’t have a clue what’s going on.

The use of Grindr is prevalent in the scene and for those who don’t know what Grindr is it’s a hook-up app for Gay men to find men to have sex with and it’s literally by how many feet they are away. The internet seems to have caused a lot more harm than good for these men because their most “twisted” S&M fantasies can be fulfilled within a few swipes on their phone. The fact that meth isn’t the drug that’s messing everyone up is truly shocking but the analog of GBH called GBL is the main culprit in these men’s drug problems. The resurgence of HIV in the Gay community is also touched upon in shocking ways including many men who admit they actually wouldn’t mind to have the disease just so they don’t have to worry about becoming infecting and there is even internet sites where men are willing to infect you.

The film certainly isn’t all doom and gloom hedonistic mayhem, it’s very funny at times and many of the men interviewed have left the scene because it’s became too hazardous for their health. There is a glimmer of hope with David Stuart who is the substance abuse leader who himself has used drugs in a sexualized way mainly cocaine. The clinic he works at is 56 Dean Street which is shockingly the only clinic in the country for gay men who have substance abuse problems and who also engage in risky sex. Like the film he is totally non-judgemental and it’s an important step towards understanding and tackling this obvious serious problem within the gay scene but to be fair I wouldn’t be surprised if there is similar things happening in the “straight” community either. Vice’s first theatrical documentary is one of their most insightful and is a very strong debut in their documentary feature division.

Ian Schultz

Documentary | UK, 2015 | 15 | Peccadillo Pictures | London Film Festival | 4th December 2015 (UK) | Dir.William Fairman, Max Gogarty