Take a bonkers ride into a bizarre and astonishing world of fringe fetish.

It begins like any other David Farrier story: a wry yet gentle glance at a peculiar corner of our world. Be it the intricacies of knitted sex toys, the secret lives of cosplay enthusiasts or a chat in a sauna with an extraordinarily sweaty Colin Craig, the ex-TV3 journalist has made a living out of exploring the bizarre and wonderful parts of life.

It is fitting, then, that one of his weirdest late-night news leads threw him and co-director Dylan Reeve into the rabbit-hole that would become Tickled.

Strap yourself into your custom-made pseudo-Fifty Shades tickling chair, because this is an absolutely bonkers ride.

When the most unsurprising thing about a documentary is grainy YouTube footage of young men tickling each other in matching adidas gear, faces contorted beyond pain or pleasure, you know this is not your ordinary documentary.

Advertisement

What appears on the surface to be a fringe fetish masquerading as a competitive sport soon spirals into a gobsmacking investigation, as Farrier and Reeve seek to unearth the grim reality behind all that laughing.

After stumbling on the competitive tickling league online, Farrier approached its organisers for an interview.

It would have made a good fluff piece to fill a few minutes, if not for the extremely hostile response from the league's overlord at Jane O'Brien Media.

Aggressive and homophobic in nature, the exchanges are recounted through onscreen emails and recreations of Farrier's and Reeve's reactions.

Even early on, the documentary does an incredible job of making otherwise mundane phone calls and emails gripping and sinister.

With a mysterious media giant breathing legal threats down their necks, Farrier and Reeve become fearless in their pursuit for answers.

Undeterred by visits from Jane O'Brien reps - filmed using a coffee-cup cam - the pair travel to the Land of the Free, where they meet characters ranging from ex-ticklers haunted by and bullied for their appearances in videos to founders of other fetish websites who run an abuse-free trade.

All the while, more and more clues about the elusive Jane O'Brien surface.

What transpires is nothing short of astonishing. The story unravels in a way that will have audience members making involuntary noises and grabbing the people next to them.

Farrier and Reeve throw themselves into the investigation and as they become increasingly frustrated with doors slammed in their faces and legal papers served, it only makes us thirstier for more answers.

Tickled is a David and Goliath story of two men who stumbled on something enormous.

Farrier has an ethereal calm about him, commanding answers from the most agitated of folk with his gentle silence.

His collaborator Reeve brings moments of panic and angst at times, a nice injection of reality for an audience undoubtedly wringing their hands.

The purpose of Tickled is not to point and laugh at anyone for their inclinations, instead to unmask and examine the exploitation of power in an unseen world.

And it does exactly that.

Tickled will sucker-punch you right in the guts. A must-see.

Rated M
Screening now