This review is published slightly early. Tickled will come to Houston starting Friday, July 15 at the Sundance Cinemas.

Documentaries come and go, but crime lives forever. I believe a famous philosopher of film said that once.

When I first saw the trailer for Tickled I knew I wanted to see it immediately. It screamed out that this would be a weird documentary, a unique documentary, a documentary that might involve a giant crime syndicate that no one knew anything about.

And yes, Documentaries do have trailers.

Tickled began with a simple premise. Journalist David Farrier, out of New Zealand, likes to investigate and report on the weird stuff. He runs into a flyer that more or less invites young, athletic males to come out and get tickled for a little bit, for up to thousands of dollars. And it is not sexual, it is part of competitive endurance tickling.

What is that? Well, I guess it involves being strapped down and tickled by multiple people, and seeing how long you can last? Obviously you also have to be ticklish, no cheating here.

So David figured he would check it out and asked the PR group behind it if he could interview them. He got a hard no. Like, a paragraph long no. One that also wanted to make sure that he knew it was not sexual and they didn’t want homosexuals involved with, noting David’s sexual preference.

Huh, okay. Normally the story would be over then. But then he kept getting messages from the group, being quite crude in their content. Telling him he isn’t wanted, he shouldn’t be gay, things of that nature. That is when they decided to make a documentary on these events, wondering where they would go and who the heck is behind all of this.

Because they already know who is on top of this.

Things of course got weirder for David and his crew. Now that the documentary was getting started, lawyers got involved. They cam all the way down to New Zealand to talk about things and they were not happy to be on camera. Things got defensive super quickly and left people in a sour mood.

So what is a journalist to do? Well, travel to America on a work visa! Not just to do lawyer things, but to better investigate. They get to talk to people who did the competitive endurance tickling. And by that, just one person would be willing to be interviewed, as most didn’t want to be embarrassed. We got to learn about other tickling things going on in the states, and just how many of these “competitive evnets” exist across the US. There used to be a woman early on the internet who paid men for tickling videos and it seems to be where a lot of it got started.

Oh, we also get to see how vicious these groups can be when their ticklees (If it isn’t a word I am making it one) would stop working or start being a nusance. They would try to destroy their careers, friendships, family relationships, everything, all on account of tickling. Huh, sounds familiar.

I am being vague on purpose of course, because the mystery goes much deeper. And what David and his team uncovered is an entire underground tickling empire that might all come from the exact same source. Spooky!

Not that there is anything wrong with tickling or fetishes. It is just when people get sue happy and ruin peoples lives over it, that is where the issue comes in. I am quite surprised at the results of this documentary. At times it felt like they lost track of what the goal was and were just getting Tickling Fetish 101, but all of it was bought back and connected and made a very cohesive journalistic documentary. It is also well shot, legally gray, and sort of like a mystery.

Did I think that a documentary about tickling would be one of the best that I had seen this year? Of course not. But that’s why actually watching the movie is so damn important.

4 out of 4.

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