Tickled — the new documentary by impish Kiwi journalist David Farrier and his co-director, David Reeve — is a squirrelly beast. By accident, the pair stumble upon and document the bizarre and perverted world of professional tickling, a sport that involves immobilizing one competitor whilst one or more others tickle him beyond the point of comfort.
Sorry for the inexactitude of the language above. By ‘professional’ I mean: for more money than you might expect. By ‘sport’ I mean: game that’s not fun to play and which has no winners. By ‘competitor’ I mean: unfortunate lad who has no idea what’s coming.
And while I’m correcting myself, I do not mean to imply that tickling, or being tickled, or making any of it into a game of willing dominance and submission is perverted. While I hope that such endeavors involve a bit of lovely perversion, what I intend to say is that those who fund this niche activity have ulterior motives. They, as Tickled methodically reveals, are twisted fucks.
Watching you squirm uncontrollably is the point. If tickling alone won’t do it, I’m sure they’ll think of something else.
Tickled tells a whacko story in a world of whacko stories. It takes a hard left turn from goofytown straight into scaryville. It dares explore the kind of documentary subject filmmakers spend their whole lives fantasizing about stumbling upon.
And then, like Farrier and Reeve, perhaps come to regret ever diving into.
To say more about the film’s content would be to rip Tickled‘s Band-Aid off far too quickly. Suffice it to say, this is no more a story about the sport of tickling than The Silence of the Lambs is an instructional video about leathercraft. There are bad people here. Crazy bad; and Farrier and Reeve wittingly and perhaps unadvisedly stride up to pound on the protective glass between us and them.
While the film isn’t remarkable as a piece of technical cinema, Farrier serves as a charming host through a shadowed landscape. He’s one of the Brothers Grimm, pointing out helpfully, “Do you see the Big Bad Wolf there? My, how sharp his teeth are.”
Tickled‘s ride ends more abruptly and with less definitiveness than one might wish — but never fear. The story is far from over. All-too-real characters continue to leap off the screen to warp our lives with all the charm of your average psychopath.
I didn’t love Tickled, but I’d be lying if I claimed it didn’t intrigue the heck out of me. It is a film that takes something patently ridiculous and somehow uses that to lure a troll out from under his bridge.
Troll is the right word, too. If half the connections Tickled manages to convincingly make hold up, there will no doubt be a trove of gnawed bones to sift through in the creature’s lair.
Pretty funny, huh?