Throughout Tickled it’s impossible to know whether to laugh or gasp. The opening scenes begin to portray the comical nature of the documentary, with David Farrier, a nerdy-looking guy from New Zealand, explaining how he discovered “competitive endurance tickling” whilst browsing the internet looking for bizarre content. And boy did he find it. The story starts to unfold with videos of athletic-looking young males being handcuffed to beds and tickled using such objects as hairbrushes and electric toothbrushes. Cue audience hysteria.
Nevertheless, there is, quickly, a strange sense that it’s not all fun and games: the eerie and somewhat threatening music suggests the tale is heading in a less pleasant direction. Farrier and Dylan Reeve (assistant director), intrigued by what they learn, begin to delve deeper into the preternatural world of tickling. But they become rapidly aware they’re walking a dangerous path. Numerous cyber-attacks and legal threats later, the documentary starts heading down a very different track: fetishes, bullying and sport, apparently.
Farrier, who slightly resembles a Kiwi Louis Theroux, does a great job of approaching his targets, and an even better job of telling the story. He feeds his audience small snippets of information, which will make them instantly want more, like a crack addict waiting for their next hit. it becomes apparent that there is an epidemic of tickle torture, extreme cyber bullying and manipulation spreading, not only within the United States, but also ruining people’s lives in the rest of the world, and no one is entirely sure who is behind it or what their motives are.
The filmmakers tell a thought-provoking story in a clever way. The juxtaposition of silliness versus seriousness leaves the viewer wondering if they’re still, actually, discussing tickling amongst homophobia, harassment and death threats.
Albeit an unusual subject, Tickled will prompt Google searches on the sadistic “sport” that is “competitive endurance tickling”, and whether the monster behind it is still roaming the internet today.
Tickled is released in selected cinemas on 19th August 2016.
Watch the trailer for Tickled here: