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August 18-31
VOL.14 ISSUE. 26
HOME / STORY

Tickle Monsters

Jorge Ignacio Castillo
Published Thursday August 4, 06:19 pm
There’s a sinister world of competitive tickling?

Tickled
Roxy Theatre
Opens Friday. 5
3.5 out of 5

It all started as an innocent puff piece for New Zealand television: a tickling endurance competition was recruiting guys from around the world to travel to Los Angeles. Journalist David Farrier contacted the organization to learn more. In response, he got hostile e-mails and threats of legal action. Instead of deterring him, the overreaction piqued his curiosity.

The documentary Tickled is a rabbit hole in which each new burrow is stranger than the one before it. Early on, two things become clear about the production company behind the event: they have very deep pockets (enough to hire lawyers across the world and fly representatives to NZ just to talk to Farrier) and they don’t take kindly those who antagonize the organization.

The villain of the piece is Jane O’Brien, the head of the production entity Jane O’Brien Media. Farrier soon discovers videos of the competition are all over the web — against the participants’ wishes — and those who complain become victims of a vicious vendetta that involves reputation smearing and harassment.

Tickledis not a very polished film, but does a bang-up job following the trail of something sinister. The film doesn’t condemn the tickling, but the exploitation of young men at hands of someone who uses the Internet to destroy lives in complete anonymity.

There are a number of jaw-dropping surprises in Tickled I’d rather not touch in this review. It is, however, an entertaining ride when Farrier isn’t making the movie about himself. A first-time documentary filmmaker, Farrier antagonizes first and researches later, a strategy that gets in the way of a better movie. Still, there’s not a lot of stories like this out there.

By the way, O’Brien’s recruitment website is alive and well at time of publication.

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