TICKLED (New Zealand/15A/92mins)
Directed by David Farrier and Dylan Reeve.
THE PLOT: When journalist David Farrier stumbles across the world of Competitive Endurance Tickling online, he is understandably intrigued and tries to set up an interview with the company behind the video; Jane O’Brien Media. What Farrier didn’t expect however, was a personally abusive email in response to his request, followed by threats of legal action. Intrigued, Farrier decides to ignore the warnings and travel to the US from his home in new Zealand to try and find out more about the sport of ticking, and just why Jane O’Brien Media is so determined to shut his query down.
THE VERDICT: The starting point for ‘Tickled’ is a curious and strange one, but as the film goes on, and directors David Farrier and Dylan Reeve uncover much more than they thought was going on, the information gets jumbled and the giggle worthy reality – that this is a documentary about competitive tickling – somehow gets lost.
Throughout ‘Tickled’ it seems as though something more is going on than we are being told. Many people involved in the “Tickling Cells” that Farrier uncovers do not want to be interviewed on camera for fear of reprisals – which included internet blackouts, spam attacks on the White House in their name and generally threatening to ruin their careers and release their personal information online – and although this turn in the film is an incredibly serious one, there is also the reality that gets ignored; these videos are being made for tickle fetishists, and as torture porn goes, this is fairly mild, and rather odd.
Throughout the film, as the story runs deeper and deeper, Farrier talks to people who work for Jane O’Brien Media, but have never met her, and this somehow leads to Farrier finding out about a woman who operated online in the early 2000s, with a similar modus operandi, and this just brings the story deeper. The trouble is that while the pieces of the film fit together, they do so rather loosely, without ever giving a satisfactory ending to this loose and rambling documentary, which somehow turns from something light and fun to something dark and sinister in the blink of an eye.
In all, ‘Tickled’ is an intriguing premise for a documentary, but since most of the film is spent doorstepping angry people, talking to subjects superficially about tickle fetishes, and a central story that simply peters out, ‘Tickled’ is a film with a great idea but an unsatisfying result. It is interesting to spend time with Farrier as he goes under the surface of tickling, but a stronger edit and a clearer ending would have made for a much more satisfying and less drawn out film.
RATING: 3/5
Review by Brogen Hayes

  • filmbuff2011

    Tickled is one very curious documentary about one very curious type of behaviour. What begins as a seemingly offbeat expose of the strange world of ‘competitive endurance tickling’ soon takes on a darker, more sinister purpose of epic proportions.

    David Farrier is a journalist in Auckland who has made a career out of looking at the stranger aspects of human behaviour. He comes across a video online which appears innocent enough – that of young men being tied up and tickled for as much as 20 minutes by other young men, as part of an apparent sport. This is competitive endurance tickling, another strange aspect of American culture – like competitive eating. Contestants are invited on an all-expenses paid trip to Los Angeles to take part. He contacts the company that runs these contests, Jane O’Brien Media in Los Angeles, for an interview but is surprised when he gets a very hostile response. They don’t want any association with the bisexual Farrier, who rightly so believes that the videos ‘are a bit gay’. He invites some representatives from Jane O’Brien Media to Auckland, but that first encounter doesn’t go so well. Farrier and his camera crew head to Los Angeles to delve deeper into this murky world…

    Like Catfish (the film and TV series), Tickled is one of those truth-is-stranger-than-fiction documentaries that you just couldn’t make up. It’s an investigative journalism piece which involves impromptu interviews, stake-outs and covert recording – even down to a camera in a coffee cup. At first, this seems a bit too much for what really looks like some innocent, if somewhat strange, fun. But this ‘sport’ is built on a web of lies, extortion and extremely intimidating behaviour which makes it all the more interesting. Just who is behind Jane O’Brien Media – and why are they doing this?

    To say anymore would be to spoil the story’s many twists and turns. This is a film where it’s best not to know too much going in. The curiosity factor alone is enough to sell a ticket, because there’s enough meaty material here to fill out a follow-up film. The tickling videos themselves seem curious for about 30 seconds, but then you realise that there’s a fetish aspect to them. They take on a different tone. At one point, Farrier speaks openly with a man who is happy to talk about why he makes tickling videos. The fetish aspect is made clear here, but at least this man is open about it. Jane O’Brien Media is a different kettle of fish. There’s some very dodgy stuff of labyrinthine proportions going on behind the scenes.

    Farrier and his co-director Dylan Reeve capture some great footage, where you really don’t know what’s going to happen next. The film itself is intriguing and consistently entertaining, as it lifts the lid on another sinister aspect of the Internet. There’s some strange stuff out there and Farrier has hit on something worth researching. Beware… there may just be a ‘tickle cell’ here in Ireland. Now that’s a scary thought that doesn’t tickle this reviewer’s fancy. ****