Planet 4 Facehugger (Alien Covenant)

Posted by Darkness on May 15, 2023 (Updated: 06-Sep-2023)

 Planet 4 Facehugger (Alien Covenant)

The Planet 4 Facehugger

The Planet 4 Facehugger appeared in the 2017 film Alien Covenant. It isn’t strictly the same species as Facehuggers we’ve seen before. It’s perhaps a precursor to them and it had been engineered by the android David. It’s commonly referred to as the Praeto-Facehugger or Planet 4 Facehugger.


Like other Facehuggers, the Planet 4 version emerges from an egg and has a similar shape to normal Facehuggers. It has a slightly different appearance. On a normal Facehugger, you can see a reddish wrinkled area between the legs but in this variant, it’s a flat smooth surface with the same colour as the rest of its body. The Planet 4 Facehugger has thinner but longer digits with four ‘knuckles’ on each one instead of three.

 Planet 4 Facehugger (Alien Covenant)

The Planet 4 Facehugger

Its behaviour is different too. It seems to be noticeably more agile. It can still attach itself to a victim and subdue them, but the Planet 4 Facehugger can be removed a lot easier. A single person would struggle to still remove it but Cole managed to use a knife to remove it from Lope but doing that would have been impossible on the normal variant with its acidic blood. The acidic blood on the Planet 4 variant seems to be less lethal too. Lope’s face wasn’t badly damaged and Cole’s knife didn’t burn straight away. This is a big contrast to the Nostromo Facehugger where cutting it spilled acid that immediately burnt through several decks of the Nostromo.

The time it takes for the Planet 4 Facehugger to implant a Chestburster has changed substantially too. Usually, a Facehugger has to be attached to its victim for some time before implantation and it keeps the victim alive for the duration. Removing it would result in the death of the host. The Planet 4 Facehugger can infect their hosts within mere moments of attaching to a victim.

When a victim regains consciousness after having been infected, they still have no memory of what happened. The gestation process though seems to happen at a much faster rate. When Oram woke up, there was only a few seconds before the alien burst out of him whereas Kane on the Nostromo lasted quite a while after he was infected. The Planet 4 Facehugger was intelligent enough to avoid gunfire and hide but as soon as it saw a viable host, it attacked its victim. Given how quickly it managed to infect Lope, it’s willing to be more proactive and take risks to infect somebody.


In 2094,  Elizabeth Shaw and the android David departed from LV-223 in an Engineer spacecraft and reached the Engineer homeworld – later known as Planet 4. Shaw was killed and David began studying the flora and fauna on the planet. He was stranded on the planet for over a decade and furthered his research and experiments to create the perfect organism. David eventually created a few Alien eggs which were left waiting for hosts. When the crew of the Covenant found him in 2104, he was able to test out his experiments. Oram approached one of the eggs, which opened and a Facehugger attacked him. Then the creature that emerged from Oram was a variation of the Xenomorph.

 Planet 4 Facehugger (Alien Covenant)

Oram was attacked by a Facehugger.

More members of the Covenant investigate Oram’s disappearance and are attacked by the Facehuggers. Lopé is attacked by a Facehugger, but he is saved when Cole cuts it off of him, burning Lopé’s face. Cole is then killed by an adult alien and Lopé runs away.

 Planet 4 Facehugger (Alien Covenant)

A Facehugger on the Engineer Homeworld.

David’s Drawings

You can see below a selection of David’s sketches that he did when he created the Planet 4 Facehugger. (The actual artist was Dane Hallett).

 (Dane Hallett) (Dane Hallett) (Dane Hallett) (Dane Hallett) (Dane Hallett) (Dane Hallett) (Dane Hallett) (Dane Hallett)


The Facehuggers in Alien Covenant were purely digital creations created by VFX company Framestore. Odd Studios and Creatures Inc. Ltd still created practical versions for use on the set, however. This was a great reference for director Ridley Scott, the director of photography for the lighting and the actors on the set. As soon as they’ve finished filming, they put together an edit to visualize how the scene plays out.

Multiple versions were created for use as stand-ins during filming. One could move along the ground or up walls as a rod puppet. Another one was created that could jump out of the eggs that David had created. Odd Studios had a cannon under the stage that would fire out a soft foam Facehugger that would hit the stunt double’s head.

 Planet 4 Facehugger (Alien Covenant)

A Facehugger prop from Odd Studios.

As the Facehuggers in the film were erratic, jumping around, being shot at and attacking the characters, the creature became a digital creation which was completed by Framestore under Visual Effects supervisor Stuart Penn. Prior to filming, Framestore began work on the creature by creating some animation tests. They considered some snake and spider references but they felt walk-and-run cycles weren’t going to be sufficient. They felt it was too clean and methodical and Ridley Scott wanted something more visceral, instinctive and chaotic. The Facehugger was going to be moving chaotically that you would barely see it so a different animation had to be created for each shot.

Framestore looked at the Facehugger’s spider-like legs and body and determined its movement on that. They scanned the puppet and added additional detail onto the surface using ZBrush. They built an internal skeleton for its insides, giving it an internal structure so that tendons were connecting bones to other parts. The Facehugger had more leg joints than the original Facehugger from Alien and the end of its legs was redesigned. The Facehugger’s legs are the only parts that are hard with a thin layer of skin over them. But the rest of the Facehugger is quite fleshy and muscled. Framestore built the muscles inside and then they had a skin simulation over the top of it.

They used sub-surface scatter through the skin and into the muscle geometry. They thought it was important that you could feel the variation in thickness of the skin, especially when the scene was backlit.

While a practical Facehugger was used to grip onto the head of its victim, Framestore replaced it with its digital version so it could form a tight fit. Ridley Scott was very keen to show how tight the legs were around its victim. Framestore also created a digi-double with a CG hair groom so they could show the hair going over the Facehugger’s legs. In some shots, they painted out the puppet while in others they used a clean plate that had similar action. The puppet was very useful for lighting reference and gave the editor something to cut with while Framestore was working on the CG Facehugger. There was also a puppet that could be wheeled for lighting reference.


Facehugger Facehugger
Facehugger Facehugger
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