A few months ago my roommate walked into the living room of our apartment and told me about this documentary he watched called “Tickled.” He told me what it’s about, and that it’s one of the best (and weirdest) movies he’s seen in 2016. So, when I saw that HBO was airing the doc, I followed his recommendation and watched it. Boy, am I glad I did. “Tickled” might just be the most bizarre documentary I’ve ever seen, and it’s one of the best as well.
“Tickled,” directed by New Zealand entertainment journalist David Farrier and Dylan Reeve, a filmmaker, follows what happens after Farrier spots an online video of a competitive tickling league. When he reaches out to the company that produces the videos, he receives homophobic threats as a form of denying a request for an interview. The deeper he digs, the more legal threats he receives. What starts out as an absurd look into the world of competitive tickling becomes something much bigger, and much more nefarious.
The reason why I’m being slightly coy about what “Tickled” is truly about is a part of what makes this documentary so fascinating is watching everything unfold. The film knows about the absurdity of what happens to Ferrier and Reeve, and it takes great care of how it tells its story. There are twists and turns I wouldn’t have expected from it. By the time the movie finishes, it’s no longer about something as simple as competitive tickling, and has become about something much deeper and much more interesting. In this case, to say more would be a disservice to the movie, as the surprise of it all is one of the documentary’s best aspects.
For most of “Tickled,” it’s truly shocking how much the people behind the “competitive tickling” would want to keep it a secret, and the lengths they’ll go to keep the true reason for what they do quiet. Through this narrative, the documentary tackles the power that comes with a lot of money. Many of the participants in the tickling “competitions” have been doxxed online, and have been threatened with lawsuits or other life-ruining events. When these people are interviewed by Farrier and Reeve, the impact of these threats is clear, as is the tragedy of the situation.
“Tickled” introduces itself as a documentary that takes a look at the bizarre sport of competitive tickling. However, by its end, it shows itself to be so much more than that. It unfolds its true story in a way that’s as fascinating as it is bizarre. Farrier and Reeve have made one of best documentaries I’ve seen in a long time.