Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 32 minutes
MPAA Rating: R for Language
Directed by: David Farrier & Dylan Reeve
Starring: David Farrier, Dylan Reeve, Marko Realmonte, Kevin Clarke, T.J. Gretzner, Richard Ivey & David Starr
TICKLED is a documentary that I’ve been hearing about for quite some time and the premise alone had me interested in seeing this film. New Zealand journalist David Farrier has made a career out of focusing on weirder side of life. When David stumbled across “competitive endurance tickling” videos, he found his next big story. Upon requesting an interview with someone at Jane O’Brien Media (the company behind the videos), David was met with a barrage of troll-like replies and threats of legal action. This documentary takes the viewer down the rabbit hole of tickling videos that ultimately becomes something far stranger and then twists into something very dark.
This doc’s opening five minutes initially set up light-hearted fluffy fare (much like David’s news footage that we see in the opening credits) and then takes a hard left turn that never lets up from that point onwards. This documentary doesn’t feel like a typical documentary, but rather like a real-life thriller and a character study of a disturbing unseen figure. The twists and turns that TICKLED takes are too juicy and bizarre to spoil, so I’ll attempt to keep things as vague as I possibly can in this review. Be advised though, there will be some minor details discussed (though I don’t feel that these play into the larger picture of the film overall).
This documentary has the benefit of charismatic reporter David Farrier as our guide through this strange mystery. David employs a good sense of humor in certain moments (like showing up with a brightly colored sign to greet disgruntled Jane O’Brien employees at the airport) and plays things gravely serious when appropriate (like the lives being torn apart by the shadowy villain of this story). Farrier also has the balls to step up and take action when he feels that something clearly isn’t right. One scene in which he brazenly walks into a situation that he knows will likely be problematic shows a great deal of bravely, as well as some degree of foolishness.
Alongside David is the occasionally glimpsed Dylan Reeve, who steadily holds the camera and provides much-needed prodding in certain moments. TICKLED also has a handful of colorful individuals who are interviewed and a deeper mystery that slowly comes to light. These people include folks from the creepy company, a former tickle “competitor,” a talent scout for tickling videos, and other journalists who have been sucked into this tickling web of lies. This film starts off as something, shifts into something else, and ends up as a completely different, infinitely more depressing, and altogether infuriating experience entirely.
Herein lie the film’s faults though, because TICKLED occasionally seems unfocused. There is one guy (Richard Ivey, a tickle fetishist) whose interview seems almost unnecessary. Ivey’s segment seems like filler, as well as a slow-motion tickling sequence included in this piece of the film. Also, a would-be climactic confrontation (between David and our shady mystery villain) feels like an anti-climactic shrug, instead of a powerful scene to go out on. This isn’t the fault of David or Dylan, but it’s still a slight disappointment nonetheless.
As a whole, TICKLED is an interesting (to say the least) documentary that is sure to surprise viewers and take them down a twisted path. You’ll likely want to read into this case after you watch the film and will be greeted with some arguably pleasant news (be sure to watch the 2017’s follow-up short THE TICKLE KING too). Though this documentary occasionally gets distracted by unnecessarily small details (e.g. Richard Ivey’s entire interview), it serves as a wholly unique and special viewing experience. TICKLED is a stark reminder that there are strange people in this world and some of these weirdos are far scarier when they have power (code for: lots of money).