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Sunday, 18 June 2017


(MA15+) ★★★★

Director: David Farrier & Dylan Reeve.

"It's not what it looks like, mum."
In the beginning, New Zealand journalist David Farrier hoped to do a story about "competitive endurance tickling". As a subject, it ticked a lot of boxes for Farrier - the inherent wackiness and absurdity was right up his lighthearted alley.

But his inquiries to the media company behind the competition drew a bizarre response, and so began Farrier's dark and disturbing journey down an internet rabbit hole that you have to see to believe. What he'd initially hoped to do as a two-minute bit for TV suddenly became a crowdfunded documentary with co-producer credit for Stephen Fry.

Tickled's subject matter is so incredible, unpredictable, and weird that it seems too good to be true, but it's also too incredible, unpredictable and weird to be a mockumentary. This is the doco's appeal - that you won't believe what you're seeing, but you have no other option.

The unusual story and the things Farrier and co-director Reeve uncover along the way help paper over any directorial, pacing, editing or structural issues. It's so gripping that its annoyances are easily ignored. To be fair, its practical flaws aren't deal-breakers, but Farrier and Reeve definitely benefit from their subject matter.

As a host, Farrier is like New Zealand's answer to Louis Theroux. They share the same pleasantly bewildered naivety, although it must be said Farrier comes across as more of a regular dude than Theroux.

The less you know about this doco going into it, the better. But rest assured this is a bizarrely gripping, oddly hilarious, and downright disturbing glimpse into a level of weird you didn't even know existed.

PS. There's a sequel of sorts to Tickled, because the weirdness didn't stop after the cameras stopped rolling. Here are some details about the HBO special The Tickle King.

I watched Tickled at a screening hosted by F Project Cinema in Warrnambool, Victoria, Australia. Here's what's coming up at future FPC screenings at the Mozart Hall (all screenings are at 7.30pm):

Tokyo Story - June 28

The Devil & Daniel Johnston - July 12

Cloud Atlas - July 26

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