Rubbing us up the right way
TICKLED Directed by David Farrier and Dylan Reeve. Cert 15A, select sites, 93mins
There’s nothing particularly novel in uncovering a freaky sexual fetish on the internet. Everybody knows that we’re only ever a click away from watching eccentric humans suck custard out of tights or have sex dressed as unicorns.
At first glance, Tickled, a new Oscar-tipped documentary, resembles one of those sexual freakumentaries that occasionally pop up on Channel 4.
It’s much, much weirder than that. David Farrier, a Kiwi TV reporter, happens on a site featuring hours of videos wherein a young man is strapped down and tickled by other young men, all dressed in matching Adidas sports-gear. This activity is dubiously described as a sport – competitive endurance tickling – although tellingly, it doesn’t feature in Rio this summer, and they’ve got handball.
Farrier’s discovery might have been fodder for a 4Chan meme. But from the moment he attempts to contact Jane O’Brien Media, the production company behind the videos, he is met with a barrage of homophobic slurs and legal threats.
Interest piqued, he and his co-director set out to discover just what on earth is going on. We’ll say no more. But the viewer can look forward to a 20-year history that involves a mysterious heir to a fortune, the White House, the FBI and victims plucked from the MMA circuit.
The mood of the film and investigation shifts from light to menacing but Farrier’s New Zealand brand of cool doubles as a kind of superpower, as he cheerfully sneaks around secret location shoots.
There are important lessons to be learned here – such as don’t trust people offering free hotels and money on the internet. More meaningfully, Tickled offers an anatomy of intimidation that feels particularly relevant for our post-Gamergate times.
As you like it: a competitor gets ready in Tickled