The trailer for Tickled is the stuff of parody gold, something so ridiculous that it can’t possibly be real. A deep dark conspiracy in an underground tickling empire? There are only so many layers of ridiculousness that can be layered on before credulity is stretched. It’s to Tickled’s great credit that not only does that trailer, bonkers as it is, only scratch the surface (indeed, the biggest moments in the trailer occur what seems like ten minutes into the movie), but that it legitimately feels believable even amongst its lunatic subject matter. It’s a compelling look under the surface of a particular corner of the internet, a thriller that preys on the fear of online strangers so engrained in early-2000s Western society in a very effective way.
Tickled is a fairly light investment, and a rabbit hole that is best explored unspoiled, so I don’t recommend reading further if you’re sold already (mild spoilers follow). It seems like a funny movie, and indeed the first few clips of athletic young men tickling each other are highly amusing, but it quickly introduces moral ambiguity to its humour. The concept of tickling as an act of power is sold well, and the humour of the situation is contrasted with the very real and very scary consequences the participants face. This is not to say that Tickled is anti-fetish per se, and in introducing a secondary tickle-video producer who genuinely loves his job and does right by his performers, it deflects the blame from those who simply enjoy the act. But its scenes dealing with the more serious side still contain plenty of ludicrous moments, daring you to laugh until guilt takes over.
The core emotion by the end is a righteous sort of anger, a desire to see punishment inflicted that is never fully satisfied. It drags out some of its twists, seeming to occasionally hide relevant information from the viewers to attempt to construct a more satisfying conclusion, but it doesn’t lack for surprising and tense moments. The movie pokes and prods at viewer’s emotions regarding class privilege and power, and engages in some serious armchair psychology, but is thoroughly involving and deeply sympathetic to those who have been wronged, making a small mockery of the situation but never of the people (except perhaps one willing participant’s steely tickling face). Tickled may be a paranoid stranger-danger flick, but damned if it isn’t effective.
Dir. David Farrier and Dylan Reeve
Rotten Tomatoes (93%)