Tickled

Tickled

(2016)

Investigative documentary following New Zealand journalist David Farrier. His discovery of the bizarre and troubling world of competitive tickling takes him down a rabbit hole of abusive emails, lawsuits, and alternate agendas...... More

"After stumbling upon a bizarre competitive endurance tickling video online, wherein young men are paid to be tied up and tickled, reporter David Farrier reaches out to request a story from the company. But the reply he receives is shocking - the sender mocks Farrier's sexual orientation and threatens extreme legal action should he dig any deeper. So, like any good journalist confronted by a bully, he does just the opposite: he travels to the hidden tickling facilities in Los Angeles and uncovers a vast empire, known for harassing and harming the lives of those who protest their involvement in these films.

"The more he investigates, the stranger it gets, discovering secret identities and criminal activity. Discovering the truth becomes Farrier’s obsession, despite increasingly sinister threats and warnings. With humor and determination, Farrier and co-director Dylan Reeve summon up every resource available to get to the bottom of this tickling worm hole." (Sundance Film Festival)Hide

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Flicks Review

If anyone were to find a cyber-thriller lurking inside a story about online competitive tickling, it’d be David Farrier – the David Attenborough of K' Rd. He and co-director Dylan Reeve were presented a seemingly innocuous string that, when pulled, led to an investigative journalist’s El Dorado. So they pulled it. And pinched it. And wiggled it. And tugged it. And, much like being strapped down to a tickle chair, things quickly go from chuckle-worthy weirdness to uncomfortably intense.... More

It all kicks off when the company behind Farrier's discovery of a tickling ring, Jane O’Brien Media, replies to his inquiries with crude homophobic slurs. Given the potentially homoerotic content O’Brien uploads, the irony is hilarious, though the joke stops when Farrier and Reeve are threatened with legal action. This rabbit hole leads to something truly sinister when the victims of this cyberbully speak out.

As dots are connected and historical ties show themselves, Tickled traces the outline of an empire that has stayed dormant for decades. Wisely, the film takes time to separate Jane O’Brien Media from the innocent members of the tickle fetish community, introducing audiences to this wider world. (You might cringe, or you might discover something about yourself.)

When the film reaches a section about MMA, however, its previously growing momentum is somewhat halted. It’s not exactly an unnecessary addition to the film, but it does go over things that had already been covered, making it feel like a footnote that’s been given its own chapter.

But this doesn’t derail Tickled. It’s funny, it’s compelling, and – as Farrier loquaciously states – “it’s actually fucking creepy as fuck.” This weird weave of tones remains sturdy throughout the warped journey before turning into something profoundly sad with the film’s final reveal.

Special credit goes to cinematographer Dominic Fryer, who shot every environment, document, squirm and nipple beautifully.Hide


The Peoples' Reviews

Average ratings from 28 ratings, 22 reviews
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BY cinemusefilm superstar

Whether it is drama, comedy or documentary, New Zealand filmmakers punch above their weight. The documentary Tickled (2016) is one of the most unusual films you will see for a long time and a guaranteed conversation starter in the right company. While the film's title suggests comedic titillation, what it reveals is something sinister that has wrecked many lives. It is also a fine example of how dogged investigative journalism can stumble from something that appears innocuously weird into... More something bizarrely dangerous.

It is said that movies have plots while documentaries have premises. Pop-culture journalist David Farrier specialises in fringe phenomena and his premise is that if someone spends a fortune to stay anonymous they have something serious to hide. He comes across something described as "competitive endurance tickling" that involves the filming of young athletic males being tied down and tickled by one or more other young athletic males, all fully clothed. His initial inquiries to understand more about this activity are so aggressively stonewalled that he turns his investigation into a documentary with most of the filming in the United States.

Expecting to find a secretive cult of homoerotic activity, Farrier finds participants who have been subjected to extraordinary legal threats, extortion, and public shaming. The scale of intimidation and the lengths to which perpetrators are prepared to go indicate there is big money involved. The documentary feels like a parallel universe where things go from strange to stranger as the inquiries lead to a prominent and wealthy American lawyer who was a teacher and school principal. Farrier and his team-mate Dylan Reeve use old fashioned stakeouts, doorstop confrontations, and forensic web-based research to turn the study of a fringe fetish into a gripping thriller.

This is a well-produced documentary, especially for a novice filmmaker. Minor criticisms aside, like Ferrier's occasional tendency to tell rather than show and a few scenes that need tighter editing (like the time spent in the car stake-out), the overall pace, direction and content make this a totally engaging film. The hand-held filming technique and the unexpected twists and turns in the investigation impart real-time-discovery effects. A quick Google search will show that both during production and since the film's release Farrier and Reeve have been and still are under serious legal and financial threat. Not only do the filmmakers deserve a bravery award, their work is riveting from the laughter-filled opening scenes to the chilling closing credits.Hide


You've got to see this doco to believe it. I would say the less you know going into it, the better. Very entertaining. Must see!


BY Booper superstar

Finally got around to seeing David Farriers 'Tickled' and boy was it worth it. Firstly the run time 92 minutes, the perfect doco length - short, sharp and to the point. Hallelujah.

A lot of documentaries I have recently seen have not had enough footage and were very repetitive to start with I thought this might be the case with Tickled but it was constantly evolving and bringing in new points of interest. I have read a few reviews slating the kiwi lingo and use of swearing but I found this... More worked incredibly well and made it seem quintessentially kiwi - low key and a little bit crass.

I think supporting New Zealand film is very important and this will not disappoint.Hide


A rather disturbing doco on competitive tickling, with some disturbing characters to boot. Even the funny is funny in a disturbing way. The ticklers and ticklees are predominantly hunky guys, which is also disturbing. What, there's no market watching padded people get tickled. Overall funny and intriguing, not knowing where it was going or how it was going to end. Lastly, surely it's not real?


If you’ve never heard of competitive tickling, don’t worry you’re not alone, neither had New Zealand journalist David Farrier, until he stumbled on an online story. Much like British documentarian, Louis Theroux, Farrier’s faux naivety, general likability and gob-smacked curiosity propel him on a journey into the strange and surprisingly dark world of tickling.

His investigation leads to homophobic insults and legal threats, uncovering a bizarre underworld of organized... More cyber-harassment, giggle-worthy goings-on and kooky characters.

Rarely does a documentary manage to tickle your funny bone, pique your curiosity, and intrigue your imagination, but with Tickled, Farrier and co-director Dylan Reeve take you on a journey that fascinates, amuses, repels, entertains and appalls. No mean feat!Hide


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The Press Reviews

94% of critics recommend.
Rotten Tomatoes Score. More reviews on Rotten Tomatoes

  • Brave, occasionally disturbing, always thought-provoking and – still – hugely entertaining. Full Review

  • Works as a terrific bit of investigative filmmaking — Errol Morris filtered through ‘Too Many Cooks’ — as Farrier and Reeve make their way through the byzantine web. Full Review

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