By John Corrado
★★★★ (out of 4)
When New Zealand pop culture reporter David Ferrier found bizarre videos online of a sport called Competitive Endurance Tickling, where half-naked young guys are paid to be tied up and tickled by other men, he reached out for an interview with the company behind it.
But he never could have predicted the can of worms he opened up, when they refused an interview because he was gay and they didn’t want to be “associated” with homosexuals, which obviously just made things even weirder. Facing an onslaught of homophobic threats and possible legal action in his quest to uncover the truth behind these tickling videos, he got sucked into a delirious internet rabbit hole of fetishes, conspiracies and deceit.
This is all you need to know before seeing Tickled, a real life thriller chock full of shocking twists and turns that unfold right before our eyes, with co-directors David Ferrier and Dylan Reeve filming their investigation every step of the way, even when they are told to turn the cameras off. Although starting off as darkly entertaining, the film quickly becomes something truly disturbing and terrifying, exploring the control and abuses of power that exist within the tickling industry, and on the internet as a whole.
It’s compellingly strange to watch and filled with plenty of “holy shit” moments, so see it knowing as little about the story as possible. Few documentaries have the power to make us squirm this much, but Tickled is unsettling in all the best ways and really gets under your skin. And any documentary that has the filmmakers getting threatened with legal action by one of the subjects after a screening, as what happened at the Los Angeles premiere last week, is worth seeing as soon as possible.
Tickled is now playing in limited release at the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema in Toronto. Tickets and showtimes can be found right here.