Journalist David Farrier stumbles upon a mysterious tickling competition online. As he delves deeper he comes up against fierce resistance, but that doesn't stop him getting to the bottom of a story stranger than fiction.
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David Farrier, a New Zealand pop cultural reporter whose story subjects often verge into the bizarre, believes he's found his next story when he stumbles across an online video on the world of competitive endurance tickling, a sport where the participants, with hands and feet tied down, are tickled for as long as they can endure. Participants are flown to Los Angeles first class, paid $1,500, and put up for four nights in a luxury hotel. Suitable participants are deemed to be younger, muscular males. The event is held on a monthly basis. In contacting the organizers, US-based Jane O'Brien Media, via their popular Facebook page to arrange for an interview, David receives a return message from one of their representatives, Debbie J. Kuhn, declining the offer, the message a homophobic rant largely against David. In that message, Debbie asserts that the competition is wholly a heterosexual athletic activity, she who does not appreciate what will be David's assumed gay bent on the story as...Written by
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I started this journey curious about a bizarre sport called Competitive Endurance Tickling. But I now think this was never even about tickling... This is about power, control and harassment. It's about one person's twistedness, and how far that can go. One person, who has managed to shelter himself with money to keep his obsession going. But now, it's his life exposed. For once, it's him on camera.
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not the greatest filmmaking, but the subject matter and the journey trumps all
As with The Jinx, a simple take-away is this: you get someone who has a *lot* of personal identity issues and a *lot* of New York family money, and it makes for a ridiculously dangerous combination - emphasis on both ridiculous and dangerous.
This was riveting material as a mystery-unfolds story, though the filmmaking is fairly standard as an expose (you can't help but feel suspense for the directors as they have to do literal stake-outs outside of places like the 'Tickle' video building, where as if out of the Joker's hide-out you can hear the barbaric sounds of laughter wafting out of the windows, or when they wait for days to find the one car that belongs to the now-late David D'Amato). It gets stronger and more disturbing as it goes along as the directors discover more and more in places they weren't necessarily looking; at first they were simply looking into another tickling-fetish video company out of Orlando not related to the group that was trying to "sue" the filmmakers (in quotes as it turned out to be a bust). Then this leads from one person to another, and it turns out to be aliases and undercover identities, stolen social security numbers from dead people, and a figure who was once an assistant principal at a school.
I thought at first this was going to all be some sort of goof, even into the first minute or so of the interview with the first "tickled" subject who agreed to talk on camera (face and all, not in the shadows or only just a voice or so on). What this so-called 'company' did is mortifying, and all for what is on one hand a seemingly innocent and on the other hand is disquieting; think about the times that you have, as a child, been tickled by your parents or tickle siblings or friends, and all in a having-fun sort of way. The manner in which some of these tickling videos were presented, one expects the Gimp from Pulp Fiction might appear to either tickle or be tickled.
And yet people going into this doc should know it's not an exploration of ticklers like, say, Hot Girls Wanted where it's about the subjects in the videos. It touches somewhat on the fetish, but this, aside from some curious homosexual aspects (and I mean that not in any gross way, simply that it's interesting that it's all men and that David D'Amato is one of those highly ashamed gay men of wealth and prestige and projects that on to others), is more about the depths of WTF that go into this "Tiffany Tickle" or whatever her name was and how she is really this one man D'Amato.
It's about power and control, and how it corrupts and makes humans into monsters, which slightly, thematically, connects back to how tickling in these videos is about submission and domination and being emasculated under intense pressure (again they're *all* young, well-built men in the videos, never women, never men older than, say, 24). In that way, Tickled can't help but hold out attention - not to mention a final, devastating phone conversation with D'Amato's step-mother.
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