WOLF CREEK’S CASSANDRA MAGRATH
THEN: When it comes to horror movies, the more memorable the killer is the better. As well, the same can be said about the victim. All too often a terrifying tale simply has you rooting for a cool murder of bland and useless bimbos with nothing to offer. When you have a leading lady that you can sympathize with and maybe even feel pretty deep sadness for, you either have an incredible character, a talented actress or both. In the 2005 Australian shocker WOLF CREEK, as colorful as the bad guy is (played with flair by John Jarratt) it was impossible to not ache for Liz Hunter and her backpacking pals. As Liz, Cassandra Magrath gave a layered and powerful performance.
The Australian actress started her career at a very young age. Her first high-profile gig was the Aussie series, “Ocean Girl,” which aired from 1994 to 1997. Soon after that she appeared in the likable little flick HOTEL DE LOVE from 1996 which also starred Aden Young and Saffron Burrows. For her next series she went back to the ocean in another Australian episodic “SeaChange” from 1998-2000. Aside from HOTEL DE LOVE, I’m not at all familiar with either of the two series, but clearly they helped get the young actress continuous work as she next found herself on another show called “Crash Zone” which ran from 1999-2001.
Magrath worked steadily on television in a number of series in the early 2000’s, this included “Shock Jock”, “Blue Healers” and “Wicked Science.” That kind of consistency can lead to many things for an actress, but for horror fans she wasn’t at all a familiar face. However this lovely young woman had something truly special, a sort of girl next door appeal. Pretty yet disarmingly so, she could put you at ease with her smile. Had she been working in the States I’d imagine you could find her on a series like “Seventh Heaven” or possibly “Charmed.” Thankfully with the help of a brutal little horror flick, horror fans would get to see what she could do thanks to her venture into terror.
2005’s WOLF CREEK is an intense experience that builds to a near heartbreaking climax. The story of three backpackers hunted down and tortured by a psychopath has a surprising element that is lacking in many films of this ilk. I gave a crap about these people. Magrath is especially effective here as Liz Hunter, one of the toughest victims in horror movie history. If you haven’t seen this flick, let’s just say that the scene where the crazed bushman tortures this poor woman is nearly impossible to watch. Both Magrath and Jarrett as the killer give impressive performances. Yet unlike joyously howling when Jason kills another camp counselor, watching Liz suffer is excruciatingly difficult thanks to her impressive performance.
After this scary little independent flick shocked audiences with its gritty realism, Cassandra arrived in the United States to capitalize on its success. According to a terrific interview in The Sydney Morning Herald, the actress felt staying here was a bit too expensive and went on to continue to work Down Under. Thankfully she wasn’t completely finished with horror when she appeared in 2011’s VANISHED about a woman seeking revenge on a kidnapper. To be honest I haven’t witnessed this flick and the trailer wasn’t all that satisfying, but I’d give it a chance just to see Magrath back in thriller mode.
NOW: Over the past couple of years Cassandra Magrath seems to be very busy back working in television. In 2012 she appeared in the long running Australian series “Neighbours” for a five episode arc. She could be seen hanging around “House Husbands” this past year as well as “Wentworth” and “Winners & Losers.” Near the end of 2013, she took on the stage production of Neil LaBute’s “Fat Pig” where she plays a jealous woman who gets a little nasty with a heavy set rival with whom her boyfriend falls for. If you know LaBute’s stage work it should be an incredibly dark little comedy. Next up for the actress she will be doing a romcom entitled 36 QUESTIONS in which – seemingly according to her IMDB page - she has the leading role.
Magrath may not be a regular in the dark and demented world of horror, but her performance in WOLF CREEK is unforgettable. Hopefully those of us not watching Australian TV will get to see more of her work in the years to come. Either way, it’s great to see that she has found a successful niche, but all I ask is that you Aussie’s share a little because many of us love the incredibly charming Cassandra as well.