16th October 2015 6.30pm at Hackney Picturehouse
17th October 2015 6.30pm at Vue West End
Shot through a variety of aspect ratios and media, including home video recorders, Chemsex delivers an intense and graphic insight into the world of drug-fuelled sex in the gay community. As the documentary jumps between its many interviewees it unflinchingly delves into their different backgrounds nevertheless focusing on their disturbing joint experience of this dangerous sub-scene.
Whilst the film’s subject matter does expand, with an insight into health clinics and recreational saunas, it never forgets that the people and their encounters with this world are the most important and emotional element. Close-up shots of heroin-filled needles jammed into bulging veins and uncontrollable, narcotic-heavy sex scenes at times make the viewer feel nauseated. This is not at all to the film’s detriment, it highlights the attraction and addiction that many homosexual men feel towards this lifestyle, but also manages to accentuate its dangers through stories of chronic sexually transmitted diseases and death.
“Some wish that they would get HIV so that more people will have sex with them and not feel threatened by the guilt of infecting another”. Lines like this only give a small insight into the shocking attitudes displayed but the film’s disturbing, and almost terrifying, tone is truly excellent.
The horror of the situation is amplified through the ominous drone music accompanying the barely lit nightclub sequences, explicit S&M images and scenes with hardcore drug use. The audience feels uncomfortable viewing these events and the one-on-one interviews with those still heavily addicted only add to that. One particular interviewee feels like an almost stereotypical depiction of a drug-addict, with wide unblinking eyes and constant paranoia about people walking in and checking on his heroin usage. But this is definitely no parody, this is a seriously ill individual who acknowledges his disease but truly believes there is no salvation for him.
Problems with the pacing are apparent, with fade-outs used extensively for filler. The camera focuses very heavily on subjects on busy streets, totally blurring out the background, and the multiple internal shots of apartments and dark, dimly lit nightclubs can make the viewer feel unnecessarily claustrophobic. However, this method is very effective at times and shocks the audience but also makes them aware of this underground world, while really bringing it to life.
Chemsex is released is key cities on 4th December 2015.