Tickled is no laughing matter

The feature documentary Tickled, which marks the feature debut of journalist David Farrier and his partner Dylan Reeve, is not an easy film to recommend but even harder to forget – or ignore.

Farrier, a pop-culture reporter in New Zealand, comes across a website touting “Competitive Endurance Tickling,” a pastime (“sport” would be an overstatement) in which men are tied down and tickled while on camera. As this certainly falls into the realm of Farrier’s beat, he decides to pursue it further – and opens up an increasingly disturbing can of worms.

No sooner does Farrier begin making inquiries than he is subject to threatening and offensive e-mail slurs (Farrier happens to be gay, which his on-line nemesis doesn’t hesitate in pointing out). This doesn’t deter Farrier, but goads him into getting to the bottom of the story.

What initially seemed like a bizarre fetish is instead a much more complex and insidious operation, with the people being tickled – at least those who consented to be interviewed – enduring what would now be termed cyber-bullying, although to a much larger extent than they ever could have anticipated.

The further Farrier investigates the creepier the story becomes, especially when he seeks the identity of “Terri Tickle,” the apparent mastermind behind Competitive Endurance Tickling. Once Farrier and Reeve ascertain the actual identity of the elusive and evasive “Terri,” Tickled segues into something akin to a true-crime story, a relentlessly compelling and consistently freakish odyssey that’s impossible to look away from no matter how much one may want to.

Tickled opens Friday !