I've been reading Dan Simmons' The Terror, I've also in the past 2 years or so tore through any H.P Lovecraft stuff I can find, and it sort of dawned on me that I find anything that goes on in horror infinity more creepy when it's set a Victorianish era
I'm not 100% sure what it is about that era that affects me so. Part of it is that while it doesn't make any logical sense, I can buy an unknown mysterious something more in a time when there were so many things as yet unknown to science.
Part of it is there's no need to make the characters trendy and distracting.
Even when you just picture a small town back then, it's scary, you can see low hanging mist everywhere, (where the fuck has all the mist gone in our modern world? has apple stolen it? it cant all be hanging around Frank Darabont) They lit their streets with fire and then not nearly enough to keep murky shadows at bay, the roads themselves are built for horses, again scary, you can see their breath and they're always acting twitchy, maybe they just have an itch they cant get to or maybe there's something right behind you!
All their day to day tools were potential weapons, trimming their lawns with scythes. sure you can kill someone with a lawnmower but that shit is funny, not scary. Is something unsettling going on in the back yard? you should call your neighbour Alex Bell on the phone, but you cant because he's down in the basement inventing it, so you have to send the youngest of your 8 kids on a fools errand a mile away in the monster dampening rain. (The other 7 don't make it either)
If you live though an attack the medical treatment is most likely going to be worse than the initial assault. Everywhere looks like England, the buildings are stoney and the sky is overcast on the rare occasions it's not night time.
Nobody will believe you, this is true of any horror setting, but these fuckers don't even believe in molecules or particles yet, so your struggle to convince them of the tentacled dead is mammoth. Another side of that is because of the lo level of exposure to anything remotely exotic, the Characters have zero frame of reference for what they see and are thusly much more likely to be bind blown.
Even nature was different back then, The woods: Haunted, The Hills: Cursed, The Animals: yet to be rednecked into submission, The weather: Cliche'd with brief periods supernatural vortexes in the late afternoon.
You have no way of collecting irrefutable evidence, even if you survive to the end of your story people will just say it was some rare form of tiger.
People working in aren't pimple faced teens out of high school, they're creepy old dudes with missing extremities (or if working in the hospitality sector, gills)
There's a tone and an overall unease you can get just by placing your story 150 years ago. There's a lot of hate for Sleepy hollow but the atmosphere achieved from the location is undeniable. I'm sure Growing up hearing about jack the Ripper played no small part in the horrification of the era.
I now look back upon my first sentence and see that I was right about my incoherent rambling, am I right about modern settings just not being able to compete with 150 years ago though? is horror doomed to get worse and worse as technology, and knowledge of how the world works drive mystery further and further away.
The only answer I've seen that storytellers have been able to is isolation, The thing or the shining could be told in almost any era with very little changed.
I'm going to shut up now.