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Facehugger

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"Woke up gagging on a creature — like a spider. It wrapped around my face. It's dead, sir."
―Pvt. Clarison to Capt. Cruz, referring to a Facehugger (from Aliens: Colonial Marines)
Alien-The Facehugger
A Facehugger attached to Kane.
Facehugger
Biological information
Homeworld

Xenomorph Prime, potentially any planet

Physical description
Height

3' (Length)

Weight

10 lbs

Skin color

Beige

Distinctions

Dies minutes or hours after implantation is complete

Other information
Affiliation

Xenomorph

  [Source]


The Facehugger is a parasitoid form of the species Xenomorph XX121 that hatches from an Egg. It is the second stage in the Xenomorph's life cycle, and exists solely to implant a Chestburster embryo within a host creature via their mouth. As such, it has no real offensive capabilities (beyond an ability to spit acid, which is generally only used to gain access to hosts and not for attack)[1][2] and must rely on stealth, surprise or their victims being previously immobilized by an attacker to achieve implantation. Notably, a Facehugger dies shortly after its task has been completed. Facehuggers are around 3 feet in length from the tip of their forwardmost digits to the tip of their tail.

CharacteristicsEdit

"Looks like some kind of scorpion..."
Sebastian, describing a frozen Facehugger corpse (from Alien vs. Predator Unrated Edition)

Facehuggers greatly resemble a pair of skeletal hands fused together, with a spine-like tail. Their long digits allow them to move rapidly across all manner of surfaces and also grant them their crucial ability to "grip" a host's head during embryo implantation. Their spindly appearance should not be underestimated; these digits are incredibly strong, and have been known to tear the skin from the skulls of human victims when an attempt is made to remove them.[1] Once the digits are gripped around a host's head, they are nigh impossible to remove and implantation is virtually guaranteed. A Facehugger's tail can propel the creature into huge leaps[3] and is also used for additional grip around a host's neck during implantation. Facehuggers have even been known to use their tail to strangle potential hosts when attempts are made to remove them, sometimes fatally. Their potent acid blood further complicates any attempt at removal. Facehuggers are primarily beige in color, giving them a skin-like appearance.

Situated on either side of the creature's body at the base of the tail are a pair of bag-like bladder structures that are used to circulate air into the victims lungs during implantation. Underneath the Facehugger is a small orifice, from which the creature will extend a lengthy proboscis into the host's throat for embryo implantation. While fragile and useless in combat, Facehuggers' small size and rapid movement makes them adept at ambushing potential hosts, and also makes them difficult to kill.[4] Facehuggers have been known to be used in an actively offensive role when transported by a Carrier, as shown in Alien vs. Predator: Extinction.

Face

Facehuggers inside their eggs.

Facehuggers normally reside within their Ovomorph until disturbed by a potential host, at which point the Egg will open and the creature will launch itself at the victim; the manner in which the host is detected is not well understood. Although Facehuggers can survive outside of these Eggs for a period of time,[3][5] this is not common. Being submerged does not appear to affect them, as Facehuggers on LV-426 were stored in some form of preservative fluid for an extended period of time and were still able to function normally when released.[3] They are also capable of healing incredibly quickly, cuts and lacerations closing within minutes without leaving any trace of permanent scarring.[6]

Subduing a hostEdit

"Janie, my wife... she got one of those things on her face."
Freya's Prospect colonist C. Hope, referring to the Facehugger (from Aliens vs. Predator)

When a Facehugger initially makes contact with a host, it will leap towards their face, often with alarming accuracy, and immediately wrap its tail around their neck and its digits around their skull. Should the host attempt to interfere with this in any way, the Facehugger will use its tail to choke them until they are either too weak to resist or they lose consciousness altogether.

The manner of this choking is not thought to be asphyxiation, as this could take up to a minute to render a human victim unconscious and in reality the process occurs far faster than that; more likely the Facehugger cuts off the blood supply to the victim's brain, knocking them out within seconds.[5] It has also been known for Facehuggers to subdue hosts with their proboscis alone, inserting it into their throat while they are still conscious but otherwise having no contact with them.[7] It should also be noted that most victims that are attacked by Facehuggers immediately attempt to remove the parasite from their face rather than uncoil the tail wrapped around their neck,[3] indicating the tail unlikely restricts breathing; if oxygen pathways are blocked the instinctive reaction would be to restore airflow by removing the tail. Despite this, it is highly plausible the Facehugger's tail is still an instrumental factor in the process of rendering a host unconscious.

It is also speculated that Facehuggers might sedate their hosts via some form of toxin or anaesthetic, probably administered through skin contact.[8] It is possible such toxins may also be administered through the creature's proboscis, although this seems unlikely as a conscious host would potentially be able to resist its insertion, although strangulation with the creatures tail would likely grant the Facehugger's proboscis access as the victim gasps for air. Chemical sedation would imply that a Facehugger (or perhaps the Egg it resides within) is able to determine a potential host's body mass and composition, so as to ascertain a correct dose of toxin; if the dose was off even slightly, the host could suffer toxic shock or even die.[8] The speed of host incapacitation and the likelihood of host death upon the Facehugger's premature removal both seem to indicate that, if a toxin is used, it may cause an inability to breathe in the victim in addition to its sedating qualities. This would in turn promote a dependence of the host on the Facehugger to pump oxygen into their lungs, preventing its removal. Furthermore, the fact that victims tend to remain unconscious for some time after the Facehugger has completed implantation and removed itself from them could be further evidence that the submission mechanism is chemical.[1] Victims have also been seen to perspire heavily during the process, something that would not happen if constriction of the tail was the method employed. A preview image from the Weyland-Yutani report has paragraphs mentioning that Facehuggers uses a cyanose-based paralytic and chemicals used to suppress the immune system.[9]

However, not all victims of Facehuggers are rendered unconscious; on Bouvet Island, the mercenary Mark Verheiden remained conscious for at least part of the implantation process, as evidenced by his attempts to shout for help (rendered futile by the proboscis down his throat). It has been theorized that hosts cocooned in a Hive may not be rendered unconscious simply out of redundancy, owing to their inability to move or fight back. This may explain why many cocooned victims are aware that they have been impregnated and request to be killed.

Given the size of a Facehugger, humans, Predators or other humanoid-sized victims are the most compatible hosts. It has been suggested that a Facehugger would likely not be able to use a host any smaller than a cat.[10] However, there is evidence that even Engineers, which are significantly larger than humans, have been impregnated by a Facehugger.[1] Similarly, it is not unknown for oxen to be successfully impregnated by Facehuggers.[11] Facehuggers are also known to attach to Oswocs, Kurns and Kritics. It is possible that a Facehugger does not need to entirely envelop a host's head to implant an embryo, but merely needs to subdue it and insert the embryo through the host's mouth.

As the Xenomorph species has occasionally been likened to ants, one theory is that Facehuggers may attack larger hosts in swarms, akin to warrior ants, or with assistance from other adult Xenomorphs. Presumably several creatures would subdue the host while another implants the embryo. There have been recorded cases of adult Xenomorphs pinning victims to the ground so that a Facehugger may then attach to them without fear of retaliation.[4]

Implantation processEdit

Facehugger Diagram

A diagram showing how the Facehugger impregnates the host.

Once a Facehugger is securely attached to a host, it inserts its proboscis down the victim's throat. This proboscis both supplies the host with suitable atmosphere for breathing and also implants the Xenomorph embryo in their oesophagus, a process that takes several hours. During implantation, Facehuggers are not only able to determine a suitable atmosphere mix for the host to breathe, they are also capable of providing this mixture even in an otherwise unsuitable environment; Gilbert Kane was exposed to the hostile atmosphere of LV-426 when the Facehugger that attacked him breached his suit's faceplate, yet the Facehugger kept him alive until the crew could return him to the Nostromo.[1] It is thought that the creature supplies suitable atmosphere by breaking down molecules found in the ambient environment and rearranging them into the appropriate compounds before feeding them into the host's lungs;[12] in the case of oxygen-breathing organisms such as humans, the Facehugger is capable of extracting oxygen from gaseous oxide compounds in the air, such as carbon dioxide.

How exactly the Facehugger impregnates a host is still relatively unknown as there have been theories ranging from simple embryo implantation to a viral agent that causes the host's body itself to develop the Chestburster from its own tissues. While the embryo theory is seemingly sound and one of the more accepted explanations, it still lacks any reasoning on how said embryo would end up in the chest — if an embryo was implanted by the proboscis, it could logically only be located in either the respiratory or digestive tracts, as there is no access to the chest cavity from the throat or oesophagus. A viral agent driving the Chestburster's development would allow the embryo to develop in the chest cavity, but it remains unclear how the host body could be driven to actually assemble such a complex life-form (including its biomechanical construction and potent acidic blood) from its own biological materials. It is possible that the viral agent would also include the necessary DNA for the host's body to use.

Once implantation is completed, the Facehugger will typically detach from the host and subsequently die. It is not known how long a Facehugger can survive after implantation is complete; some Facehuggers are found dead directly alongside their hosts,[3] or even still attached to the host's face, while others have been known to crawl away and apparently even hide before dying.[1] The Weyland-Yutani Report also states that Facehuggers will remain attached to its host after impregnation to make sure the implantation is secure, the times of this range for twenty minutes to sixteen hours.

RemovalEdit

"'Surgically removed before embryo implantation. Subject: Marachuk, John J., died during the procedure.' They killed him taking it off."
Bishop, reading from Marachuk's medical chart (from Aliens)

While Facehuggers have been removed before embryo implantation has taken place, the process is ostensibly fatal for the host.[3] The Facehugger's combination of vice-like grip, strong tail around the victim's throat and highly acidic blood makes them essentially impossible to remove safely. Even in the very early stages of an attack, very few victims have managed to remove them before being subdued, with even Yautja and Engineers (both being notoriously strong) apparently unable to fend one off once it is attached. It is possible a Facehugger's legs may "lock" once wrapped around a host's head, possibly in a manner similar to rigor mortis, which would make simply pulling it off almost impossible. While a victim could conceivably lift the creature off like a helmet, the Facehugger's powerful tail prevents this.

However, there have been limited examples of Facehuggers failing to subdue a host. On Acheron, Ellen Ripley was able to impede a Facehugger by shielding her face with her hands as the creature attacked, and while she would inevitably been rendered unconscious in short order, with immediate assistance she was able to remove it. Similarly, on the USM Auriga, Ripley 8 successfully removed a Facehugger unaided, although due to her partially-Xenomorph DNA she had physical strength in excess of a typical human, and also an apparent immunity to the creature's acidic blood.[13] It is unknown if being submerged in water aided in this instance, as it could have either discouraged the Facehugger due to the host potentially drowning after detachment following a successful implantation, or prevented it from sedating its host by chemical means altogether. Had Ripley 8 been attacked out of water, it is unknown if she would have been able to successfully defend herself. Another example is Captain Mike McCubbin, who partially wounded a Facehugger with a golf club and then removed it with assistance before it fully attached.

Alternate formsEdit

Royal FacehuggerEdit

Main article: Royal Facehugger
Royal Facehugger

A Royal Facehugger.

The Royal Facehugger has the ability to lay a Queen embryo inside a host, as well as a further standard embryo inside a second host, a tactic designed to give the unborn Queen an immediate "bodyguard" in the form of a normal Drone.

The necessity of a Royal Facehugger in creating a Queen has never been definitive — many sources show standard Facehuggers to be capable of creating a Queen. Given that the Xenomorph species is adaptive in so many ways, this may well be plausible.

Praetorian FacehuggerEdit

Main article: Praetorian Facehugger

As with the Royal Facehugger, Praetorian Facehuggers play a part in creating Queens by implanting Praetorian Chestbursters. These Praetorians can subsequently develop into a Queen. Should a Queen already be present, the resulting Praetorian can develop into a bodyguard — either a Ravager or a Carrier depending on the circumstances.

Engineered FacehuggerEdit

These genetically engineered Facehuggers will attach to a host as usual, but then parasitically fuse with it, linking it to the Hive mind, thus creating an Infectoid. The Infected move in a zombie-like fashion. If one infects a Yautja Hunter, it will attack anything unlinked to the Hive that moves.

Giant FacehuggerEdit

Main Article: Giant Facehugger

Giant Facehuggers were created by Kenner Products as part of the company's Aliens toy line. The packaging called them Queen Facehuggers.

Behind the ScenesEdit

Giger019

Giger's initial Facehugger design, showing a larger creature.

The Facehugger was the first design completed by H. R. Giger for Alien.[14] Giger's original Facehugger was a much larger creature with eyes and a spring-loaded tail. Later, in response to comments from the filmmakers, Giger reduced the creature's size substantially.[15] At first Giger assumed that the Facehugger would wrap around the outside of Kane's helmet, but Scott decided that it would have far more impact if the Facehugger were revealed once the helmet was removed. Scott and Giger realised that the Facehugger could burn through the helmet's faceplate with its acid blood; subsequent redesigns of the space helmet included a far larger faceplate to allow for this.[16]

Dan O'Bannon initially conceived the Facehugger as somewhat resembling an octopus, possessing tentacles. However, when he received Giger's designs, which substituted tentacles with fingerlike digits, he thought Giger's design concept superior. Since no one was available at the time, special effects creator Roger Dicken created the Facehugger prop himself.[15] The technical elements of the musculature and bone were added by Ron Cobb. Giger's initial design for the smaller Facehugger had the fingers facing forward, but Dicken's redesign shifted the legs to the side. When the foam rubber sculpture of the Facehugger was produced, O'Bannon asked that it should remain unpainted, believing the rubber, which resembled human skin, was more plausible.[17]

In the film, the Facehugger's final form was predominantly portrayed by static models and simple hand puppets. For the scene where the creature leaps from its Egg and attacks Kane, sheep's intestine was propelled directly towards the camera using high-pressure air hoses.[15] The shot of the Facehugger latching on to Kane's face was acted out and filmed backwards, then reversed in editing. A final shot showed the creature inserting its proboscis through Kane's melted helmet visor. All three shots were edited together with quick cuts in rapid succession so that the final sequence lasts barely a second on film.[15] For the scene in which the dead Facehugger is examined, Scott dressed a cup-shaped body with pieces of fish and shellfish to create its viscera.[15]

In the novelization of Alien, the Facehugger is described quite differently to what is seen in the films. Instead of the usual pale yellow, the creature is grey and also has a single, large lidless eye on its back.[18] It also has octopus-like suckers on its underside the help it adhere to the face of its victim.[19] This appearance conforms to early H. R. Giger concept sketches for the creature.

For Aliens, where the Facehugger took a more active role, several different models were constructed to give the creatures a far greater range of movements. There were two "hero" puppets, which were cable-operated and capable of fully articulated movement;[20] these required as many as nine operators to control their performance.[21] Additionally, Stan Winston's studio designed and built a running Facehugger that could operate without any need for external puppeteers; the model moved along a thin wire, which in turn rotated a spindle within that operated the creature's legs and tail.[20] This Facehugger is memorably seen charging towards Ripley across the med lab floor. Alongside the animatronic Facehuggers, an array of static foam and rubber dummies were also used.

TriviaEdit

  • Some video games of the Alien vs. Predator franchise have allowed players to take control of a Facehugger as part of the Alien campaign.
  • The time it takes for a Facehugger to implant a Chestburster in its victim varies wildly throughout the Alien series. In Alien, it takes around 24 hours for Kane to become impregnated. This timescale is borne out in Aliens (in fact, a scene originally showing Burke conscious in the Hive at the end of the movie was removed because it would have contradicted this timescale) and Alien3. In Alien Resurrection, no specifics are given regarding the length of time taken to impregnate a victim, although the impression is given that the process is occurring faster than before; the novelization of the film states the Xenomorphs' reproductive cycle has been accelerated due to genetic alterations,[22] but the film never makes this clear. By the time of Alien vs. Predator, however, impregnation happens almost instantaneously; several victims in the film are conscious again within minutes, including Scar, who is impregnated in less than the time it takes the pyramid on Bouvet Island to rearrange itself, which would be under 10 minutes. The sequel is inconsistent again, with Facehuggers taking longer to impregnate their victims but the Chestbursters still hatching seconds after the host wakes up. Many of the video games based on the franchise also drastically accelerate the impregnation process, most notably Aliens vs. Predator and Aliens: Colonial Marines, in which the process takes only a few hours. Conversely, Alien: Isolation once again uses a timeframe similar to the original Alien.
  • The scene from the beginning of Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem showing a Facehugger in a tube aboard the Scout Ship lunging at the camera is an obvious reference to the similar scene in Aliens where a Facehugger in a tube lunges at Burke in an identical manner.
  • According to the Weyland-Yutani report, a few colonists died trying to contain the parasite before using the containers seen in Aliens.
  • Weyland-Yutani also reports that facehuggers can survive for at least 120 hours outside of an egg, however, these reports are noted to be anecdotal.

GalleryEdit

Behind the scenesEdit

See AlsoEdit

  • Trilobite — A creature from the film Prometheus that fulfils a similar role to the Facehugger.

ReferencesEdit

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 Dan O'Bannon, Ronald Shusett (writers) and Ridley Scott (director). Alien [DVD]. 20th Century Fox.
  2. Vincent Ward (writer) and David Fincher (director). Alien3 [DVD]. 20th Century Fox.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 James Cameron (writer and director). Aliens [DVD]. 20th Century Fox.
  4. 4.0 4.1  'Aliens vs. Predator' [Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360]. Rebellion.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Shane Salerno (writer) and The Brothers Strause (directors). Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem [DVD]. 20th Century Fox.
  6. Alan Dean Foster. (1979). Alien novelization. Warner Books, 129. 
  7. In the comic book Aliens: Kidnapped, a man is rendered unconscious the moment the proboscis is inserted into his mouth.
  8. 8.0 8.1 Lee Brimmicombe-Wood. (1995). Aliens: Colonial Marines Technical Manual. Boxtree Ltd., 153. 
  9. Alien: The Weyland-Yutani Report
  10. Alan Dean Foster. (1992). Alien3 novelization. Warner Books, 220. 
  11. Vincent Ward (writer) and David Fincher (director). Alien3 Assembly Cut [DVD]. 20th Century Fox.
  12. Alan Dean Foster. (1979). Alien novelization. Warner Books, 119. 
  13. Joss Whedon (writer) and Jean-Pierre Jeunet (director). Alien Resurrection [DVD]. 20th Century Fox.
  14. Ridley Scott, Dan O'Bannon, Ronald Shusett, H. R. GigerThe Alien Legacy [DVD]. Sharpline Arts.
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 15.3 15.4 Ridley Scott, David Giler, Walter Hill, H. R. Giger, Dan O'Bannon, Ronald ShusettThe Beast Within: The Making of 'Alien' [DVD]. 20th Century Fox.
  16. HR Giger. (1979). HR Giger's Alien. Sphinx, 52. 
  17. Dan O'Bannon, audio commentary, Alien, from the Alien Quadrilogy DVD set
  18. Alan Dean Foster. (1979). Alien novelization. Warner Books, 99. 
  19. Alan Dean Foster. (1979). Alien novelization. Warner Books, 150. 
  20. 20.0 20.1 James Cameron, Gale Anne Hurd, Gordon Carroll, David Giler, Walter Hill, Stan WinstonSuperior Firepower: The Making of 'Aliens' [DVD]. 20th Century Fox.
  21. Jody Duncan. (2006). The Winston Effect: The Art and History of Stan Winston Studio. Titan Books, 89. 
  22. A. C. Crispin. (1997). Alien Resurrection novelization. Warner Aspect, 143. 
  23. http://www.studioadi.com/bsf.php
  24. https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=346057322180739&set=a.346054932180978.78876.100003294225459&type=3&theater
  25. https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=346057325514072&set=a.346054932180978.78876.100003294225459&type=3&theater
  26. https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=346057328847405&set=a.346054932180978.78876.100003294225459&type=3&theater

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