In a stark white room, four boys huddle on a mattress, addressing the camera. They're athletic, the picture of youth and every Abercrombie & Fitch catalog. A blond boy says, "We want to thank Jane O'Brien Media for this opportunity," and they all smile and wave. They're about to take part in something dubbed "Competitive Endurance Tickling," and they seem willing participants. One boy is strapped into chains at his ankles and wrists while another tickles his underarms. The others join in, straddling him at the waist, manning his feet, wriggling fingers along his bare belly, and you think, "Oh, great, this is some creepy video from deeply closeted Christian kids." But this is the exact video New Zealand journalist David Farrier stumbled upon before embarking on a strange investigative journey for his documentary Tickled that would take him all over the United States, tracking down an elusive woman who has endless cash, an empire of tickle-fetish videos and a penchant for revenge.
Farrier's simple request to Jane O'Brien Media asking for more information about the purported "sport" of tickling depicted in the video is met with a homophobic all-caps rant calling out "gay kiwis." That only stokes Farrier's curiosity, so he and co-director Dylan Reeve decide to make a doc, going far down the rabbit hole of Jane O'Brien's psyche and finding a story that might have played as even scarier if it weren't filtered through Farrier's genial humility. Victims on video and former associates of O'Brien's talk about robocalls targeting friends and family with accounts of deranged fantasies ascribed to the tickled. Around every corner, Farrier unearths something more sinister -- it's a total mindfuck to watch unfold.