The Hammerpede


The initial idea for the Hammerpede — as conceived by Carlos Huante — was that of a precursor of the Facehugger; the artist envisioned a creature with a centipede-like anatomy, complete with numerous gripping limbs. This derived in the creature’s name, given by the production crew, after the peculiar hammer-like shape of its head and the initial influence from centipedes.

One of Huante's first concepts of the Hammerpede.

One of Huante’s first concepts of the Hammerpede.

As the design process progressed, the Hammerpede’s appearance progressively abandoned multiple arthropod-esque limbs — in favor of a smoother, limbless and more worm-like configuration. In the final film, in fact, the creature is a simple worm — mutated beyond recognition by the mysterious black liquid released by the ampules. The final design was digitally realized by Martin Rezard. The Hammerpede, as it is seen in the film, was inspired by translucent abyssal animals, with evident “arteries and veins and organs sitting below the surface of the skin,” as noted by special effects supervisor Neal Scanlan in the Art Book of the film.

Rezard's Hammerpede.

As per the other creature effects of Prometheus, the Hammerpede was built practically by Neal Scanlan Studio — with a digital counterpart provided by MPC. The creature was sculpted by Waldo Mason and Martin Rezard; the Hammerpede actually included several ‘layers’, ranging from the external skin to the internal organs and muscles. Each ‘layer’ was sculpted and moulded separately and then assembled onto the final model, which included mechanical features by Jim Sandys and Steve Wright. The Hammerpede’s skin was moulded in translucent silicone.


One of the Hammerpede’s inner ‘layers’, in the process of painting.

Scanlan commented: “ultimately the detail is from this beautiful sort of skeletal structure, with muscle that sits beneath, which we painted with lots of pearlescent paints and strong shades of colour. On top of that we cast a very clear skin that was very lightly textured and, in the right light, you could see through the creature and see something that was really quite interesting. One’s first impression is of something smooth and muscular, and powerful, like the body of a cobra.”

A total of 15 models of the Hammerpede were built, each with different purposes. They included a cable-controlled model with full head movement (including the opening and closure of the ‘crest’ or ‘hood’), a puppet that could wrap around Milburn’s arm, another that could snap a prosthetic arm The puppets featured cable operated understructures, composed of several vertebrae-like segments — allowing rather fluid movements.  “We used every conceivable combination to enable Ridley to do as much practically as possible,” said Scanlan. “And I also shot clean passes to allow for a few shots that could be realized in CG.”


The Hammerpede animatronic on set.

Some shots, in fact, required MPC’s digital Hammerpede — the head regeneration, for example. The model was, again, sculpted by Martin Rezard in Zbrush. The ‘layered’ structure of the Hammerpede was faithfully reproduced for the digital counterpart of the creature. Charles Henley, visual effects supervisor, added: “It [the practical Hammerpede] had translucent skin. They had built an inside muscle layer and a second silicon layer to get a translucent look. We scanned both layers and generated a displacement map for the muscle texture. We re-built it CG with the two layer system and had all the light scattering based on the prosthetic and looking at how that was working.”

Puppeteering the Hammerpede.

Puppeteering the Hammerpede.

Milburn attempts to touch the Monster, only to be violently attacked: the Hammerpede wraps around his arm and breaks it. A specialized Hammerpede model was used to wrap around the actor’s arm — the Hammerpede model was puppeteered by Ridley Scott himself off screen. MPC also added muscular flexion as the creature constricted its coils around Milburn’s arm. Then, the broken arm was achieved with a prosthetic mechanical arm mounted on Rafe Spall’s shoulder and another specialized Hammerpede puppet. When Fifield tries to behead the creature, its head instantly regenerates; a radio-controlled Hammerpede head and neck section was used, in combination with the computer generated regrowing head. The creature then proceeds to enter inside Milburn’s suit and brutally infiltrate inside his mouth, much like a Facehugger’s proboscis. It is currently unclear, however, what kind of endoparasite or endoparasitoid the Hammerpede is.


When the remaining Prometheus crewmembers find Milburn’s dead body, the Hammerpede springs out of it and dives back in the liquid — never to be seen again. Ridley Scott, on the set of Alien, had not told the actors — excluding John Hurt — what precisely was going to happen with the chestbursting sequence.


The director used a similar trick for the scene where the Hammerpede erupts out of Milburn’s dead lips — giving Kate Dickie [Ford] only vague information. Scanlan commented: “Ridley had indicated something was going to happen. We had the Hammerpede on the end of a monofilament wire, loaded into a dummy of Milburn that was rolled over. as we pulled it out, it was clearly an enormous shock to her. The screams are real. I think she stumbles back and falls over and that’s real too.” Rafe Spall added: “I think Kate Dickie’s still having nightmares about it.”


For more images of the Hammerpede, visit the Monster Gallery.

Next: The Deacon


About omega

faintly self-luminous cockroach-cephalopod

Posted on 21/03/2013, in Movie Monsters and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. I think it is implied that the hammerpede is actually the progenitor of the xenos and it explains the worm-like traits of larval xenos; how they shed their skin right to the egg laying. Since it is a less-evolved precursor of the facehugger it doesn’t provide oxygen for the host (even the Trilobite didn’t keep the engineer alive either) but acts just like the proboscis of the classic facehugger. Since it instinctually knew where Milburn’s mouth wasw and given all the phallic imagery, it is sensible to assume it impregnated Milburn and it explains what happened to the pile of dead engineers that not only had exploded chests but holes in their helmets. The embryo the ‘pede deposits would be the egg laying Queen and this provides context to what happened on the derelict on LV-426. More clues that the Deacon is not an egg layer is the fact that it was attached to a placenta when it was born, why would an egg laying creature be born attached to a placenta? That is because its parents were bipeds, NOT egg layers. The film really does have all the answers there.

  2. What is interesting about that pile of dead engineers is that some appear to not only have burst chests but holes in their helmets as well and given that the ampule chamber door was open before it shut on the infected engineer’s head, one can easily surmise that hammerpedes went loose and they were implicit in the outbreak. Do they lay embryos in their hosts? What is interesting about Lindelof’s commentary is that he explicitly states that the hammerpedes ‘have the capability of infecting humans.’ Since the hammerpedes are essentially worms, given that worms are egg layers it follows that the embryos that they lay in their victims would grow into egg laying queens; they fill in the missing link in regard to what came first; the Queen or the Egg? The xenomorph has always been described as an hermophrodite; they shed skin and appear like worms in their larval stage. Don’t you think it makes perfect sense? Remember the deacon was born attached to a placenta when it was born thus it follows that it wouldn’t be an egg layer since it developed in bipeds. “Here we see these little worms, which we understand is going to be the beginning…” – Lindelof

    • I think so little is stated or implied in the film that at this stage, without further, actual data to work on, any ‘theory’ can work its own way. I am not interested in further linking the Hammerpede with the Alien; it was perhaps the best element of the film, barring Milburn’s idiotic reaction to it, and it worked the way it was presented. Besides that the film intrigued me so little speculating on it is not exactly a thrilling thought for me.

      The Hammerpede can work as an endoparasite or an endoparasitoid, it’s all good.

      I don’t understand the distinction between ‘biped’ and egg layer, however. Something that lays eggs can be a biped (which means ‘something with two feet’).

  3. Personalmente l’avrei preferito munito di denti come nel concept di Rezard,l’avrebbe reso più aggressivo…

  4. @omega, I should have clarified in regard to the deacon’s reproductive abilities further, I meant to say it came from ‘placental’ bipeds, last time I checked placentals don’t lay eggs; the film makes a point by showing it attached to an umbilical cord and a human placenta. Lindelof in the commentary questions whether it is an egg layer (“Is it an egg layer?”) and given the fact that it is attached to a placenta I highly doubt that the deacon would reproduce by laying eggs. Lindelof states that there are clues that lead one down a path and he calls the worms that we see in the film track 1 in terms of the film’s relationship to Alien. Since the worms are the only terrestrial organisms in the film, and they thrive in a hostile environment of frequent silica storms, one can easily infer that they are the direct link to the classic xenomorph. Why? Well, ask yourself, how did the xeno acquire the trait of shedding its skin? How did the classic facehugger acquire the habit of shedding its cells with polarized silicon giving it resistance to hostile conditions? How did a queen acquire the capability of laying eggs? There is a lot of misdirection going on in the film and the deacon is a giant red herring; the xenos are hermaphroditic, worm-like organisms thus one CAN easily infer that acid bleeding worms are the missing link. It all follows logically and I’m surprised that many didn’t make the link also. While yes it is not 100% confirmed, I reckon it’s the best darn theory there is and it has a lot that backs it up.

    p.s. yes Milburn was idiotic but I think the point was (apart from simply propelling the plot forward toward some great body horror) to demonstrate hubris/overreach. How many cocky and fatal experts approach dangerous organisms without any rudimentary protection whatsoever? In fact I find the dubious and arrogant behavior of the so called scientists to be deliberate satire and it is thematically poignant that David is deliberately surrounded by less than impressive human beings. I think it was also implied that Vickers handpicked some less than reputable characters to humiliate her father. Maybe all this could have been communicated better to audiences, I admit, but I enjoy seeing flawed humans being punished for their hubris and I wish more cynical viewers would interpret it as a satire on hubris instead of ‘lazy writing’, that infuriates me.

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