The Hatchet Wielding Hitchhiker is a Netflix true crime documentary directed by Colette Camden. The film chronicles the story of Kai, a media sensation who became a murderer.
A local reporter in Fresno, California hears a story about a man who tried to strangle a woman only to be stopped by a homeless hitchhiker wielding a hatchet. This man turns out to be Kai Lawrence, a young man who is simply wandering America. He becomes a viral sensation and is considered for a reality show. He appears with Jimmy Kimmel which further cements his fame. However, his behavior becomes increasingly erratic and some begin to wonder about his stability. This culminates in the savage murder of New Jersey attorney Joseph Galfy, who had bought him a train ticket.
The documentary does a good job of wielding the story of Kai and even providing his background. His mother and cousin are interviewed, giving some real-life debunking of the myths surrounding his persona. He was not some hero, just a dude with an alcohol and drug problem that the media turned into the next John Lennon.
One annoying thing about this adventure was that people being interviewed kept talking about what a great guitar player and singer that Kai was. He was mediocre at best. Definitely not that impressive.
That being said, the documentary did one thing that I appreciated. It held the media accountable. From local media to the late-night comedian Jimmy Kimmel, to reality show producers, and on to social media influencers, we see how the press lifted Kai up as some sort of homeless hero. The truth was, he was a seriously deranged person who should have been stopped, but because clicks were more important, he ultimately murdered an innocent man.
This was the strength of the documentary. It did not hesitate to challenge the narrative surrounding Kai. It broached early warning signs that the media ignored and I thought it was unique. Apart from that, the documentary did a good job of telling the true crime story. It has some twists and turns, but stayed true to its subject and highlighted the victim of the case.
Check out the trailer below:
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