When I first read about “Tickled” on a random online movie list, it sounded so unusual that I knew I had to see it. What I didn’t know when I bought my tickets at the Richard’s Goat Tavern’s Miniplex was that the film is a strange conspiracy thriller about a fetish.
David Farrier, a journalist from New Zealand, is the director of the film. Farrier usually covers lighter stories. He has interviewed young Justin Bieber, Trent Reznor and has made a small documentary about the national anthem of his home country.
Farrier came across a video on Facebook about competitive endurance tickling. The video featured men in Adidas jerseys tickling a clothed man strapped to a repurposed doctor’s chair. He is then shown being tickled with an electric toothbrush in slow motion.
Farrier immediately messaged the tickling talent agency responsible for the video, requesting an interview in hopes of procuring the next great story. However, he was quickly met with homophobic slurs and a request to stay away from the company and its participants. He later received multiple lawsuits and threats. This only fueled Farrier’s curiosity about the history of tickling fetish videos and who the talent agency truly was.
Lawyers from the tickling talent agency were aggressive and told Farrier that he could not film them in the New Zealand airport even though it was legal. The only person who was willing to talk about the tickling industry seemed to be mildly off-putting.
The documentary doesn’t necessarily focus on the people being tickled because it was very difficult to find interviews of the participants due to their fear of their mysterious bosses.
Many of the participants responded to the tickling talent agency’s ads in hopes for quick cash and paid travel expenses. However, these people were later humiliated and threatened in their outside lives by the same company who hired them, similar to the threats and lawsuits Farrier received from the tickling talent agency. One ex-participant, a former high school football coach, was threatened by the tickling talent agency to have his tickling videos sent to his family and his workplace. The tickling agency later sent the video to the school the man was working at anyway, causing him to lose his job.
Seeing this movie in a full theatre of about 20 people highlighted the audience’s reactions to each twist of the film.
“Tickled” is the perfect movie to show your friends if you’re looking for something a bit different with hints of thrill, peculiarness, comedy, and uncomfortableness.