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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, referring to the 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 after implantation is complete

Other information
Affiliation

Xenomorph

  [Source]

The Facehugger is 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 other Xenomorphs to achieve implantation. Notably, a Facehugger dies shortly 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.

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. 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.[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 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.[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 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.[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 thought possible 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 or through the creature's proboscis, although this seems unlikely as a conscious host would potentially be able to resist its insertion. 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.

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. Further evidence that can support this is in the novelization of Alien Resurrection, where it is revealed that the restrained "cargo" remained conscious during the implantation process.

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.[9] 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.

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; 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 does this by breaking down molecules found in the ambient atmosphere and rearranging them into the appropriate compounds before feeding them into the host's lungs;[10] 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 as if an embryo was deposited by the proboscis, it would end up in the stomach as there is no access to the empty space within the chest from the throat or oesophagus. The viral agent theory solves this since the body creates and grows the Chestburster, it originates in the chest but how the body could be forced to actually create such a complex life-form is unknown since the Xenomorph seem to be bio-mechanical with highly acidic blood, it is possible that the viral agent would also include the necessary DNA for the host's body to use. In Alien: Sea of Sorrows, Andrea Rollins sends a report that the parasites have already implanted "embryos", however it is not clear if the embryos were implanted of if they were formed due to a viral agent.

Once implantation is completed, the Facehugger will after some time, detache 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 right beside 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]

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 invariably 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 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 or animals with a lock-jaw, 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. Its unknown if being in the water aided Ripley 8 as it could have either discouraged the Facehugger due to the host inevitably drowning after detachement following a successful implantation or that the water prevented it from sedating its host, it should be noted that in either case, the facehugger's tail lost its grip around Ripley's throat while she was spinning while submerged had she been attacked our of water, its unknown if she would have been able to successful defend herself.[11] 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.

Alternate formsEdit

Royal FacehuggerEdit

Main article: Royal Facehugger
Royal Facehugger

A 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.

Praetorian FacehuggerEdit

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.

Engineered FacehuggerEdit

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.

Giant FacehuggerEdit

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.[12] 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.[13] 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.[13] 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.[14] It also has octopus-like suckers on its underside the help it adhere to the face of its victim.[15] This appearance conforms to early H. R. Giger concept sketches for the creature.

TriviaEdit

  • 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,[16] 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.
  • The new game Alien: Isolation has the process taking four days[17], with the Chestburster erupting on the fourth.
  • 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.

See AlsoEdit

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

GalleryEdit

Behind the scenesEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. 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.
  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.  'Aliens vs. Predator' [Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360]. Rebellion.
  5. 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.
  6. Alan Dean Foster (1979). Alien novelization. Warner Books, Inc., 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 (1996). Aliens: Colonial Marines Technical Manual. HarperPrism, 153. 
  9. Alan Dean Foster (1992). Alien3 novelization. Warner Books, Inc., 220. 
  10. Alan Dean Foster (1979). Alien novelization. Warner Books, Inc., 119. 
  11. Joss Whedon (writer) and Jean-Pierre Jeunet (director). Alien Resurrection [DVD]. 20th Century Fox.
  12. Ridley Scott, David Giler, Walter Hill, H. R. Giger, Dan O'Bannon, Ronald ShusettThe Beast Within: The Making of 'Alien' [DVD]. 20th Century Fox.
  13. 13.0 13.1 James Cameron, Gale Anne Hurd, Gordon Carroll, David Giler, Walter Hill, Stan WinstonSuperior Firepower: The Making of 'Aliens' [DVD]. 20th Century Fox.
  14. Alan Dean Foster (1979). Alien novelization. Warner Books, Inc., 99. 
  15. Alan Dean Foster (1979). Alien novelization. Warner Books, Inc., 150. 
  16. Ann Crispin (1997). Alien Resurrection novelization. Warner Books, Inc., 143. 
  17. Alien: Isolation
  18. http://www.studioadi.com/bsf.php
  19. https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=346057322180739&set=a.346054932180978.78876.100003294225459&type=3&theater
  20. https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=346057325514072&set=a.346054932180978.78876.100003294225459&type=3&theater
  21. https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?

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