Yesterday, Netflix released the first of what are likely to be several true crime documentaries premiering this year, The ax-wielding hitchhiker. The new film documents the rapid viral rise of the mysterious figure “Kai” whose wild presence on a local news channel spread like wildfire online and became an overnight celebrity after rescuing a woman. As you might expect, the film digs deep into the circumstances of people who pushed Kai to continue appearing on television, as well as his tragic past, unstable condition, and any legal issues that arose later on. Netflix subscribers have been quick to watch the movie, it’s number 2 in the daily top 10, but not everyone likes what they see.
“I’m furious”, one user wrote about the film in a tweet, adding that the film was “brutally exploitative” of its subject. “It’s a tragic story of a failed society,” another added. “Sickening way the media and entertainment business tried to exploit and take advantage of someone who really needed help with their mental issues.” However, some other choice responses to the movie mention it: “A mess;” “a wild ride;” “INCREDIBLE;” and “Damn crazy;” of a notebook that Netflix had to “Try again and be more objective next time.” A user has added “I feel so oldabout the viral video that is now spawning a true crime documentary.
There are only four ratings for the movie on it Rotten tomatoes not enough at the time of writing to give it a score, but all are positive, although some mixed. In a 4 out of 5 rating, The Times (UK) writes, “The slight irony of the Kai the hitchhiker fable is that while the film seems to be making a valid point about how the reality media is all too greedy in its race to exploit individuals, Kai is here, yet becoming part of the pop-cultural cycle.” For those curious about the content of the film we’ll go into more detail below, but for anyone who wants to see it for themselves, we’ll give a spoiler warning.
After going viral in February 2013 for saving a woman’s life with an axe, Kai appeared on television enjoying the life of a minor celebrity thanks to his viral status. The documentary reveals the many people who tried to cash in on the viral sensation but were stunned that he had no interest in perusing financial ventures. Many users have taken offense to the fact that the people interviewed in the first half of the movie seem to have little self-reflection on how they tried to exploit the man, whose troubling past is also explored and the mental instability shown throughout . However, the end of the movie quickly puts almost all the people from the beginning of the movie in a new light.
However, just three months after the viral video made “The Hatchet Wielding Hitchhiker” a household name, Kai was arrested in connection with the death of New Jersey attorney Joseph Galfy. While Kai claimed that Galfy’s death was self-defense in an attempt to stop a sexual assault, which was disputed by the local medical examiner at trial. The judge in the case called Galfy’s injuries “much more than just an attempt to thwart sexual advances‘, with Kai found guilty of first-degree murder and given a 57-year prison sentence.
Ultimately, the documentary left many feeling hollow, as one user it says, “Seeing that hitchhiker swinging an ax left me with more questions than answers. I hate that kind of outcome from a program.” You can watch The ax-wielding hitchhiker now on Netflix.
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