The Hatchet Wielding Hitchhiker Review – homeless hero to stone-cold killer

By Romey Norton
Published: January 10, 2023 (Last updated: last month)


The synopsis does not do this crazy documentary justice. It’s a wild but ultimately sad story. From hero to zero in a matter of months, homeless, dangerous Kai’s story is one to watch!

We review the Netflix True Crime Documentary film The Hatchet Wielding Hitchhiker, which was released on January 10th, 2023.

Netflix is back with its infamous documentaries, helping showcase and tell stories audiences from around the world might never have known about, and this one is a strange, wild, weird treat for viewers. 

The Hatchet Wielding Hitchhiker Review and Plot Summary

If you’re too young to remember, forgot, or are clueless (like me), Kai aka Caleb Lawrence McGillvary, was the subject of a 2013 viral video shot by KMPH Channel 26 that received national coverage. Basically, Kai went viral very quickly before being viral was a real thing, so he had no competition in getting attention, and everyone was loving him and what he did. This documentary is about his insane story, his rise from being a hero to then being hunted for murder. This is a lot, so I’ve tried to condense as much as I can: 

Kai was picked up hitchhiking by a rather large man (Jett Simmons McBride, 300 pounds) who claimed to be Jesus Christ, and then they hit a pedestrian with their car (racist attack possibly). McBride has also told Kai he’d once raped a 14-year-old girl in the Virgin Islands and then got out of the car to attack a woman who was trying to help at the car crash incident, and this is when Kai got a hatchet from his backpack and attacked McBride, shouting “Smash, Smash, Suh-Mash!”. Kai hit him three times, two with the blunt side and one with the sharp, before trying to casually walk away, carrying on with his hitchhiker life

The camera caught up with him and told his story to the world, trying to make him famous. Then, later on in his nomadic travels, Kai was accused of murdering a 70-year-old man who let him stay the night, so it all got severe very fast. Over three months, Kai went from a hero-superstar to a wanted killer. Sounds insane, right? Something you’d have to see to believe. Even though there is a lot going on, the documentary explains and details it well, so you don’t feel lost or confused as a viewer, just dumbfounded.

We have first-class interviews with reporters (one in particular who Kai was close with), Kai’s mum, his cousin, and many law enforcement who dealt with him. The disappointing thing is that we don’t hear from Kai himself. We’re teased as the opening shot is of the reporter getting a call from Kai from prison, but that’s all we hear of him. 

What makes this documentary interesting is not just the insane content but how the media played such a part in his rise to fame and then demise. Kai himself comes across as a clueless nomad with no real social understanding and who has never had to take responsibility or accountability in his life.

Then being hunted by the media for entertainment, it seems like he almost had a god complex. The media clearly thought they’d found a maverick hero standing up for the average person when really they’d put the spotlight onto a cold-blooded killer.

The reporters say he had charisma and a certain sweet charm about him, but for others and myself, this freedom and lack of social awareness made him unpredictable and scary. Kai’s actions of peeing on everything, from the Hollywood Walk of Fame to the Jimmy Kimmel sign outside his show, screamed to me that he wasn’t a happy-go-lucky guy but a juvenile thug with no respect for his surroundings. Not to mention he carries a hatchet and beats someone with it. This might have been because he was coming to someone’s aid, but it was still a violent act that he was comfortably capable of. 

Kai was convicted to 57 years in prison in a maximum security prison in New Jersey. I did want to see some of Kai in this documentary, and even though it is pointed out that he won’t let his mother go see him, there’s a part of me that thinks he would love to show off a little and preach in front of a camera. Then again, he’s so fickle, so who knows? This is one unique story that is definitely worth watching. 

Is The Hatchet Wielding Hitchhiker on Netflix good?

Yes — as true crime documentaries go, this one is jam-packed with craziness and information and really makes you question the media, people, and the persona of Kai. The one hour and twenty-seven minutes this documentary last go by so fast as you’re hooked to the screen, trying to unravel and understand this story and everything around it.

What did you think of Netflix True Crime Documentary film The Hatchet Wielding Hitchhike? Comment below.

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