This surreal variant on the classic vampire tale is the directorial debut of Mexican filmmaker Guillermo del Toro, who garnered international acclaim and several awards.
The film tells the story of elderly antique dealer Jesus Gris (Federico Luppi, in a role originally written for Max Von Sydow) who, with his eight-year-old granddaughter Aurora (Tamara Shanath), discovers an ancient artifact secreted within a statue obtained from the estate of a 16th-century alchemist.
Unbeknownst to Gris, the device -- which resembles an ornate, gilded mechanical beetle -- houses an immortal parasite which will grant eternal life to its host. Naturally, there is a terrible price for this gift, which Gris is doomed to discover after the object anchors itself to his body.
He begins to develop an extreme aversion to daylight, as well as an agonizing thirst for human blood. To compound matters, dying millionaire Dieter de la Guardia (Claudio Brook) has learned of the device's existence -- thanks to an occult tome obtained from its inventor -- and wishes to obtain it for his own use.
To this end he employs his vain, brutish nephew Angel (Ron Perlman) to retrieve it for him. Angel's techniques are less than subtle, and he inevitably winds up killing Gris in his futile search for the artifact... but death is not permanent for the host of the Cronos, and he rises from the mortuary slab to reunite with the long-suffering Aurora.
Together they confront de la Guardia and his nephew one last time, hoping to find a way to reverse the horrible process before Gris suffers the same monstrous fate as the device's creator.