Review of the Hatchet Wielding Hitchhiker Rating ****
This is a strange, twisted, and ultimately sad documentary. Caleb McGillvary, better known as Kai, the hatchet wielding hitchhiker, rose to viral fame in a matter of days but was too far gone mentally to monetize that fame. This is a story with many layers: nurture vs nature, mental health, the impact of social media, the justice system, and poverty and homelessness.
It all started when a man who gave Kai a ride decided to drive into a group of people after smoking a joint with Kai. Kai would later claim that the joint was laced with other drugs. After pinning one individual to another vehicle, the man attacked two women who were trying to offer assistance. Kai intervened and struck the man on the head with a hatchet. A local sports reporter covered the story because they were short-handed that day. The sports reporter uploaded his interview with Kai to Youtube. The Youtube video became a viral sensation, racking up hundreds of thousands of views.
Kai was homeless. He was seen as a free spirit with a kind heart who helped people less fortunate than himself. It wasn’t long before everyone wanted a piece of Kai. There were some, like the sports reporter who broke the story, who genuinely wished the best for Kai. There were far too many others, however, that wanted to exploit him. There was talk of a reality TV show. He appeared on the Jimmy Kimmel show. But Kai abused drugs and alcohol and had mental health issues.
Imagine having the recognition of a famous person but still struggling to find enough to eat. That was Kai. People would stop him on the street to get a selfie and then disappear just as fast. It all came crashing down when Kai was arrested for murder. That’s when the story really takes a sad turn.
Kai claims that he killed lawyer Joseph Galfy in self-defense because he suspected him of drugging and raping him. The documentary filmmakers, and apparently the police, never investigated the veracity of the claim. It would have been easy enough to prove. Was he homosexual? Were drugs found in the residence?
Kai’s parents divorced when he was young. His mother kept him locked in his room, for what she described as what any responsible parent would do. He spent time in the foster care system until he aged out. He was homeless and without support from that time on.
The documentary falls short by not telling the story of his trial. He deserves punishment for the murder, but when you consider the circumstances, he doesn’t deserve what amounts to a life sentence. One of the last scenes is of Kai behind a plexiglass barrier speaking to a producer over the phone. The pain, anguish, and anger he displays is something I won’t soon forget.
I was entertained for an hour and a half listening to Kai’s tragic story. Kai, on the other hand, will die in prison. Are we not entertained? See it on Netflix.