“Tickled” is quite something, and not at all what you’d expect. It’s a documentary that for about one minute seems as though it’s going to be as fey and quirky as its title. But far from a jolly little film about odd, harmless people, it’s dark, weird and menacing.
It’s directed by David Farrier and Dylan Reeve, who are from New Zealand. Farrier is a journalist, who finds out about a sport called competitive tickling, based in the United States; and he looks into it, hoping for a cute human interest story. But no sooner does he begin his research than he starts getting ominous, insulting emails and weird threats. And then young men start coming out from the woodwork, with awful stories about having been involved in making these videos and the things that happened to them when they said they didn’t want to make them anymore.
Farrier and Reeve do some things that are very unexpected in a documentary. They film people against their will and tape record conversations without telling their subjects that they’re doing it. These encounters are not pleasant. Basically, Farrier and Reeve become intensely interested in the story only because of the extreme reactions they keep getting to simple questions. They don’t know what’s going on, but they sense that something or someone doesn’t want them snooping around. And so they keep at it.
As a result, there’s a feeling of danger about “Tickled.” Are they about to uncover a crime? Or some mafia secret? One watches with the growing sense that they might end up modeling concrete swimming attire at the bottom of a lake somewhere.
All their searches ultimately lead to one person, but that’s the story of the film and best left to be discovered. After you’ve seen “Tickled” — it’s oddly worth seeing — go online and look up the video of the people, depicted in the film, confronting one of the filmmakers. They have serious complaints about how the movie was made and some of the things it suggests. It’s quite possible that this story isn’t even over. It might just be getting started.
(At the Glenwood Arts, Tivoli.)
Rated R. Time: 1:32.