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One of the most buzz-grabbing shows in the past couple of years has been Netflix's Stranger Things, a monsteriffic love letter to 1980s pop culture. Where there is great buzz, there is often a lawsuit or two waiting to disrupt things, and Stranger Things creators Matt and Ross Duffer were hit with a lawsuit this week by a man claiming the brothers got their small town horror story idea from a short film he'd made. Now, through their lawyer Alex Kohner, the Duffers have issued a response that accepts no responsibility for any wrongdoing.
Mr. Kessler's claim is completely meritless. He had no connection to the creation or development of Stranger Things. The Duffer Brothers have neither seen Mr. Kessler's short film nor discussed any project with him. This is just an attempt to profit from other people's creativity and hard work.
To be expected, Matt and Ross Duffer are wholly denying the claims made by lawsuit plaintiff Charlie Kessler, and their lawyer's statement chalks this all up as someone trying to take advantage of others' successes. Given the curious similarities that were noted between Stranger Things and Kessler's project Montauk, fans are certainly hoping that the Duffers are on the up-and-up in this situation, lest one of our favorite streaming series be put through the legal wringer.
In his lawsuit, Charlie Kessler stated that his short film Montauk, which premiered in 2012 and earned awards acclaim at the Hamptons International Film Festival, was the subject of a pitch he gave to the Duffers back in 2014. Kessler's suit claims that he spoke with the Duffers at a party at the Tribeca Film Festival, and he tried selling them on the idea of a TV series called The Montauk Project. He claims he and his reps later presented materials for the show's concept to the Duffer brothers' team, but he wasn't part of the deal whenever the Duffers sold Netflix their Stranger Things idea, which originally went under the title Montauk.
More potentially noteworthy connections can be found between the two projects beyond just the name, too. Both Montauk and Stranger Things involve a young boy who goes missing, a cop with a troubled past who goes on the hunt, a military base conducting secret experiments in conspiratorial ways, and a multi-dimensional monster that looks like a toy. All of that sounds like it would be bad news for Matt and Ross Duffer, but there could be a saving grace here that dilutes Charlie Kessler's claims.
Montauk, New York is the source of a bunch of real-life conspiracy theories from the 1970s that involve paranormal experiments being tested by government officials. Those stories were said to be the inspiration for Stranger Things back when it was first brought to Netflix under its former name -- the Duffers have also publicly said their pitch was turned down everywhere before Netflix said yes -- and the show was initially set to take place in Montauk itself before changing the location to Hawkins, Indiana. But for all these possible coincidences, it's now up to the courts to decide where this case goes from here.
Kessler is suing for monetary damages and is looking to get a jury trial out of this, so stay tuned for further developments. Currently, Matt and Ross Duffer are in the thick of it working on Stranger Things Season 3, which doesn't have a firm release window just yet, but is likely going to kick everything off in early 2019. To fill the time between now and then, head to our midseason premiere schedule and our summer premiere schedule, and our 2018 Netflix schedule will also do you nicely.