‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre’: Hipsters irritate the wrong guy in humdrum horror sequel

Despite a couple good scares and a link to the 1974 original, Leatherface’s new killing spree seldom strays from the slasher formula.

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A mysterious, hulking man (Mark Burnham) goes after the people he blames for his mother’s death in “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.”

Netflix

Laurie Strode.

Sydney Prescott.

Sally Hardesty.

You might well recognize those first two names as arguably the most iconic horror movie victim/survivors of all time, from the “Halloween” and “Scream” franchises, respectively. When Jamie Lee Curtis returned to “Halloween” and when Neve Campbell reprised her “Scream” role — in both cases, it was a pretty big deal.

‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre’

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Netflix and Legendary Pictures present a film directed by David Blue Garcia and written by Chris Thomas Devlin. Rated R (for strong bloody horror violence and gore, and language). Running time: 83 minutes. Available now on Netflix.

With all respect to the character of Sally Hardesty and the legacy of the original “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” from 1974, Sally’s return in the 2022 “Massacre” — a direct sequel to the original — just doesn’t carry the same wallop. For one thing, the actor who created the part, Marilyn Burns, passed away in 2014, and while Olen Fouréré turns in a capable performance as the now 65ish Sally, it’s not as if there’s a classic, generations-spanning conflict between Sally and Leatherface.

With far too little history between Sally and Leatherface to warrant an entire movie, director David Blue Garcia and screenwriter Chris Thomas Devlin usher Sally into the story in rather ham-handed fashion, give her a few choice moments and then — well, we will not spoil it other than to say the entire extended cameo is underwhelming because the very idea of bringing Sally back is … “whelming” at best. So they bring in a whole new generation of annoyingly clueless potential victims. We’ll get to them in a moment.

For those unfamiliar or rusty on “Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” there’s a TV special conveniently playing in the local gas station at the outset of the movie, with John Larroquette (the narrator for the first film) laying out the grisly legend: “In the summer of 1973, a few miles outside of Austin, Texas, five youths were attacked in a grisly and gruesome fashion by an unidentified madman. The shocking murders were committed with a variety of tools including hammers, meat hooks and most disturbingly, a chainsaw.

“Of the five young victims, only one survived: Sally Hardesty …”

Right. Sally. Now we remember.

The rather awkward and forced premise of the new film has a group of trendy trendsetters — or so they’d like to think of themselves — arriving in the dusty and near-dead town where the killings took place, with a grand plan to buy up the remaining houses and businesses and transform the downtown area into some kind of escapist hipster haven. They even kick this one particular old lady (Alice Krige) out of her house, which used to be an orphanage, and this leads to her having a heart attack and dying, and her shadowy, hulking, mysterious son (Mark Burnham) has a big problem with that, as in, he dons a mask made of human skin, cranks up the ol’ chainsaw and starts slicing and dicing and disemboweling.

There’s a bit of intriguing social commentary in a plot point involving the troubled and closed-off Lila (Elsie Fisher), who has reluctantly accompanied her big sister Melody (Sarah Yarkin) and wants nothing to do with this backward town, where a tattered Confederate flag still flies from one building. Lila was nearly killed in a school shooting and she abhors violence and guns — but when a crazed madman wearing someone else’s face is knocking off your friends one by one, what do you do? It’s a relatively rare, poignant sequence for the genre.

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Elsie Fisher and Sarah Yarkin play sisters with an unusually poignant storyline.

Netflix

Sarah Yarkin and Elsie Fisher are terrific as the sisters, who are the closest thing to fully realized characters in the film. Everybody else is just dramatic chum, waiting for their moment of reckoning at the bloodied hands of Leatherface. For all its predictability and averageness, “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” does have two fantastically executed shock scenes: one involving the use of snapped bones as a weapon, the other a classic “Gotcha!” moment that’s so brutal and arbitrary we wonder if it’sdream/nightmare sequence, in the tradition of “Carrie.”

Carrie White. Now THERE was a memorable horror movie character.

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