What's Underneath The Xenomorph's Skin Makes Alien Even More Terrifying

Whether you're a crew member aboard the Nostromo or gearing up for an alien battle right here on Earth, one thing is certain: Xenomorphs, in all of their sleek, gooey glory, are pretty damn scary. Originally hatched from the brilliant mind of Swiss artist H.R. Giger, the xenomorph's terrifying origin comes from an airbrushed painting done by Giger in 1976 titled "Necronom IV." Any fan of the "Alien" franchise who looks at this work will immediately recognize the elongated head of a xenomorph with its menacing teeth and human-like arms. It is not exactly the same as the xenomorph we have come to know and love today — it has eyes, and there are no legs in sight, for example — but it's clear why director Ridley Scott was enthralled by such a brutal and threatening-looking creature. "Necronom IV" embodies menace while also appearing otherworldly, making it the perfect candidate for the alien that would go on to terrorize Ripley and her crew on film. 

When looking at a xenomorph — and you have to look fast because these things are quick and masters of camouflage — there is no doubt that it has the ability to kill you. With its long, terrifying tongue and extra-drippy and sharp looking teeth, you do not want to make this thing mad. In a strange way, there is something almost erotically beautiful about the xenomorph as well, which ultimately makes it that much more terrifying: You find yourself attracted to it even though you know it is going to rip you limb from limb. But the horridness of the xenomorph doesn't just exist on the surface. It turns out that the creature's inner mechanics and features are even more terrifying than anything you see on the surface.

The Xenomorph Behind the Mask

When creating the xenomorph for the screen, Giger utilized all sorts of strange and terrifying things to make his vision come to life. For starters, there is the xenomorph's mouth, which we often see as salivating and ready to chomp down on anything in sight. To get the jaw muscles to appear sinewy and the lips to slide up, condoms were utilized (yes, really) to give the appearance of stretchy, fibrous tendons, giving new meaning to the phrase, "doing whatever it takes." 

But perhaps the most horrifying truth about the inside of the xenomorph's body involves the use of real human bones.

The original xenomorph model actually has a human skull fastened underneath that smooth, shiny head. It turns out that Giger actually requested a real life human skull to be used in the making of his masterpiece. Giger was asked about this in an interview for Time Out, to which his only response was to say, "Yes, that's true. Don't ask me where I got it." 

However, if you know your horror and obsess over movie commentaries, you may have heard something in the commentary for "Return of the Living Dead" about where he procured that skull. Dan O'Bannon, the writer and director of "Return," was also the writer for the original "Alien." In the commentary for "Return," he can be heard describing how Giger asked for real human skulls to be used for the making of the xenomorph. O'Bannon explains that he "was told they were ordered from India and they were sold for medical purposes." He goes on to say that later, while working with Tobe Hooper (of "The Texas Chain Saw Massacre" fame) on another project, Hooper said he suspected that there were skeleton farms in India from which you could purchase skeletal human remains. And I mean, who else but Hooper, king of the creepy bone fragment, would know this? There is, of course, no definitive proof that this is where Giger's human skull came from, but it sure is fascinating (and a little bit spooky) to think about. One thing is certain, though: If the presence of acidic blood that can burn through practically anything wasn't already enough to keep me away from dissecting a xenomorph, its very real human skull and mouth condom tendons are enough to make me skip that particular lab in biology class.