The Facehugger is a Xenomorph parasitoid 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) and must rely on stealth, surprise or their victims being previously immobilized by other Xenomorphs to achieve implantation. Notably, a Facehugger dies after its task has been completed. Facehuggers are around 3 feet in length from the end of their forwardmost digits to the tip of their tail.
The Facehugger first appeared in Alien and has gone on to be featured in numerous expanded media. Some video games of the Alien vs. Predator franchise have even allowed players to take control of a Facehugger as part of their Alien campaigns.
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. Despite their spindly appearance, 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. A Facehugger's tail can propel the creature into huge leaps and is also used for additional grip around a host's neck during implantation. Facehugger's have also 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 not typically engaging in combat, Facehuggers' small size and rapid movement makes them adept at ambushing potential hosts, and also makes them difficult to kill. Facehuggers have been known to be used in an actively offensive role when transported by a Carrier, as shown in Alien vs. Predator: Extinction.
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 this host is detected is not well understood. Although Facehuggers can survive outside of these Eggs for a period of time, 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. They are also capable of healing incredibly quickly, cuts and lacerations closing within minutes without leaving any trace of permanent scarring.
Subduing a hostEdit
When a Facehugger initially makes contact with a host, it will leap towards their face, often with alarming accuracy, and immediately wrap it's tail around their neck and its digits around their skull. If the host attempts 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. 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. 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, 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 thought possible that Facehuggers might sedate their hosts via some form of toxin or anaesthetic, probably administered through skin contact. This implies 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. 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.
However, not all victims of Facehuggers are rendered unconscious; the mercenary Verheiden in Alien vs. Predator was still awake 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). Hosts are probably not rendered unconscious if they are already cocooned in the Hive owing to their inability to move or fight back, which may explain why many cocooned victims are aware that they have been impregnated and request to be killed.
Considering the size of a Facehugger, humans or humanoids are the most compatible victims. However, an Engineer, significantly larger than a human, is shown to have a ripped out chest in Alien, implying that it was impregnated by a Facehugger. Similarly, in the Assembly Cut of Alien3, a Xenomorph embryo is implanted into an ox, although again the implantation procedure is not seen. In the comics, Facehuggers have been seen attached to large Xenomorph Queens. In the Alien3 novelization, Ripley comments that a Facehugger would not likely be able to use a host any smaller than a cat. 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, like warrior ants. Presumably several of the creatures would subdue the host while another implants the embryo. Facehuggers are also known to attach to Oswocs, Kurns and Kritics, as shown in Alien versus Predator: Extinction.
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; 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. It is thought that the creature does this by breaking down compounds found in the ambient atmosphere to obtain the appropriate molecules before feeding them into the host's lungs; 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.
Once implantation is completed, the Facehugger detaches from the host and subsequently dies. It is not known how long a Facehugger can survive after implantation is complete; some Facehuggers are found dead right beside their hosts, or even still attached to the host's face, while others have been known to crawl away and apparently even hide before dying.
While Facehuggers have been removed before embryo implantation has taken place, the process is invariably fatal for the host. 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, few victims have managed to remove them before being subdued, with even Predators (who are 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 nearly impossible. While a victim could conceivably lift the creature off like a helmet, the Facehugger's powerful tail prevents this.
In Aliens, Ellen Ripley was able to impede a Facehugger by covering 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 in Alien Resurrection, 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. After partly wounding a Facehugger with his golf club, Captain Mike McCubbin in the book Aliens: Earth Hive was able to remove a Facehugger with assistance before it fully attached.
- Main article: Royal Facehugger
This strain is seen in the extended Assembly Cut of Alien3, and possibly in Alien vs. Predator. 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.
20th Century Fox has not proven or disproven the legitimacy of Royal Facehuggers. Given that the Xenomorph species is adaptive in so many ways, one may presume that normal Facehuggers can also implant Queen Chestbusters; the Facehugger seen briefly in the theatrical cut of Alien3 appears to be a regular Facehugger.
- Main article: Praetorian Facehugger
A larger, stronger subspecies of Facehugger seen in the game Aliens versus Predator: Extinction. Like a Royal Facehugger, Praetorian Facehuggers play a part in creating Queens by implanting Praetorian Chestbursters. These Praetorians can subsequently evolve into a Queen. If a Queen is already present, the resulting Praetorian can evolve into a Ravager or a Carrier.
Seen in the Alien vs. Predator arcade game, these genetically engineered Facehuggers will attach to a host as usual, but then parasitically fuse with it, linking it to the Hive mind creating an Infectoid. The infected move in a zombie-like fashion, much like the famous Headcrab Zombies found in the Half-Life franchise. If one infects a Yautja Hunter, it will attack anything unlinked to the Hive that moves.
- Main Article: Giant Facehugger
Giant Facehuggers were created by Kenner for their line of toys. The packaging called them Queen Facehuggers.
Behind the ScenesEdit
In Alien, the Facehugger was portrayed by static models and simple hand puppets. However, 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. 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. 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.
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. It also has octopus-like suckers on its underside the help it adhere to the face of its victim.
- 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, 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. Many of the video games based on the franchise also drastically accelerate the impregnation process, most notably Aliens vs. Predator and Aliens: Colonial Marines.
- 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.
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 Dan O'Bannon, Ronald Shusett (writers) and Ridley Scott (director). Alien [DVD]. 20th Century Fox.
- ↑ Vincent Ward (writer) and David Fincher (director). Alien3 [DVD]. 20th Century Fox.
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 James Cameron (writer and director). Aliens [DVD]. 20th Century Fox.
- ↑ 'Aliens vs. Predator' [Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360]. Rebellion.
- ↑ 5.0 5.1 Dan O'Bannon, Ronald Shusett, Jim Thomas, John Thomas (writers) and The Brothers Strause (directors). Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem [DVD]. 20th Century Fox.
- ↑ Alan Dean Foster (1979). Alien novelization. Warner Books, Inc., 97.
- ↑ In the comic book Aliens: Kidnapped, a man is rendered unconscious the moment the proboscis is inserted into his mouth.
- ↑ 8.0 8.1 Lee Brimmicombe-Wood (1996). Aliens: Colonial Marines Technical Manual. HarperPrism, 153.
- ↑ Alan Dean Foster (1992). Alien3 novelization. Warner Books, Inc., 163.
- ↑ Alan Dean Foster (1979). Alien novelization. Warner Books, Inc., 90.
- ↑ Joss Whedon (writer) and Jean-Pierre Jeunet (director). Alien Resurrection [DVD]. 20th Century Fox.
- ↑ Ridley Scott, David Giler, Walter Hill, H. R. Giger, Dan O'Bannon, Ronald Shusett. The Beast Within: The Making of 'Alien' [DVD]. 20th Century Fox.
- ↑ 13.0 13.1 James Cameron, Gale Anne Hurd, Gordon Carroll, David Giler, Walter Hill, Stan Winston. Superior Firepower: The Making of 'Aliens' [DVD]. 20th Century Fox.
- ↑ Alan Dean Foster (1979). Alien novelization. Warner Books, Inc., 74.
- ↑ Alan Dean Foster (1979). Alien novelization. Warner Books, Inc., 114.
- ↑ Ann Crispin (1997). Alien Resurrection novelization. Warner Books, Inc., 143.