Tickled Movie Review
Written by John Colianni
Released by Magnolia Films
Directed by David Farrier and Dylan Reeve
2016, 92 minutes, Rated R
Theatrically released on June 17th, 2016
David Farrier as Himself
Dylan Reeve as Himself
David Star as Himself
Hal Karp as Himself
Movies provide us with a unique kind of escapism. We can fully immerse ourselves into a world, reality or specific situation that characters experience rather than us. We get to live through the story and actions without being the ones who are getting hacked to pieces or watching ghost and demons possess the ones we love (or some who may even deserve it). When that delicate barrier is breached and we as an audience feels what we are seeing is real, a whole slew of new emotions come to the forefront. This is why I have such a profound love for the found footage genre. I sit down with a film, knowing that it is a work of fiction but the world presented to me is just believable to make my brain want it to be real. Then there is a completely different level of real. This is the actual documentary that you wish was made up. This is exactly where David Farrier and Dylan Reeve's Tickled lands on the spectrum. I was left feeling intrigued, confused and above all else, uncomfortable.
Tickled follows New Zealand journalist David Farrier as he is searching for his next sensational news piece. He states himself that he has made “a career out of looking at the weird and bizarre side of life.” He spends countless hours scouring the internet until he finally discovers Competitive Endurance Tickling. Videos of young men in their underwear, holding one another down and tickling various body parts is strange to say the least. Farrier digs a bit deeper and discovers that the heart of this is run by a United States based company called Jane O'Brien Media. What begins as a light-hearten journey to into what seems like a strange corner of the fetish world quickly becomes a sick and twisted reality.
When I started watching Tickled, I knew nothing about it. Aside from watching a brief trailer, I honestly thought was I was getting into was a “mockumentary” that tapped from a vein similar to This Is Spinal Tap and other similar works. It didn't take me long to realize that what I was watching was very real and that's when my heavy discomfort started. David Farrier dove into what he thought was just another niche fetish group. While I think it's strange, I get it. Different situations and actions turn people on in unique ways. It's the reason Furries exist and there's nothing you or I can do about it. The disturbing part was when he quickly discovered that what he was watching was a world built upon was one of cyber-bullying, extortion and exploitation.
Each layer that was exposed just became more unnerving before I came to a realization: this is a type of real world horror. It's not a make-believe reality where the worst those involved deal with is their old Colonial home under attack from supernatural forces or running endlessly from an unstoppable murderous force. Those conned into working with O'Brien Media had their lives ruined and were threatened with serious physical harm to those who challenged them, all because they thought they were making some quick money that they desperately needed. As Farrier and his team continued to uncover more about these underground tickle rings that would seemingly be appearing all over the United States, the results of his findings go deeper than I was even able to imagine. Watching the second half of the documentary is like watching a train wreck. You can't bring yourself to look away but what you're experiencing is gross and shocking.
David Farrier was used to dealing with the weird and strange. It's what he sought out in his everyday journalistic career. On the surface, something like competitive endurance tickling sounds ridiculous and outlandish. That is before you realize that it exists to promote someone's sick and twisted tendencies. I'll be honest, I'm not easily bothered or disturbed by horror. I'd probably be really bad at this job if I were. When you begin to blur the lines of what could very well be a horror film all by itself, adding the fact that none of this is in any way fabricated is the part that scares me the most. If you were having a good day filled with sunshine, rainbows and just altogether happiness, sit down with Tickled. It'll be sure to bring you down a few pegs.