Kiwi co-directors David Farrier and his “geeky friend” Dylan Reeve’s documentary is unusual in that, like Capturing The Friedmans or Lost In La Mancha and Gimme Shelter, it began as one thing and then became something else entirely. What started off as merely strange became far stranger and distinctly uncomfortable, which is not what you’re surely expecting from a movie about tickling.
The amiable Farrier is shown as a popular NZ journo who interviews stars (like a glimpsed Justin Bieber) and investigates weird-ish human interest stories (imagine a sort of less self-impressed Auckland version of Louis Theroux). His voiceover describes how he stumbled upon a link to a website all about ‘Competitive Endurance Tickling’, an extravagant LA event where fit lads appear to tie each other down and, in groups, tickle their opponents as they try not to giggle uncontrollably. Assuming that this would make a great subject for a report, Farrier consults the company behind it all (whose name won’t be revealed here as legal disputes still surround this film), and when what he’s currently up to goes viral, the organiser(s) hit back at him online repeatedly and viciously, calling him a “f****t” and the like. Which, as he’s quick to point out, is pretty rich given how homoerotic ‘Competitive Endurance Tickling’ looks.
Farrier quickly falls down a rabbit hole of the shadowy tickling industry
Incensed by the threats of legal action, especially those offered by a nasty trio of lawyers who refuse to let him film their meeting (he records it anyway), Farrier, Reeve and the team decide to do a Michael Moore and get in the faces of the CET types in LA. However, when they travel there for some cool guerilla/gonzo tricks, this shifts gears, as they meet up with guys glad to talk about tickling as a sexual fetish, learn about ‘Terri Tickle’ (an elusive tickling figure in the early days of the internet) and uncover the truth behind what’s really going on here. Or do they? Farrier and Reeve’s film aspires to address issues of control, power, sexuality and fear, but there’s more going on here, as this also works as an exploration of the whole notion of reality itself, and especially the various realities we create for ourselves online when we seek to become someone else (which is becoming harder and harder to do). And yes, that’s quite an achievement – who would have believed that tickling could be so scarily serious? Tickled will be in Australian cinemas from August 19. Rated MA.