Matt Duffer and Ross Duffer, the men behind Stranger Things, have been accused of plagiarising an idea from filmmaker Charlie Kessler. TMZ reports that Kessler filed a lawsuit against the brothers this week. According to Variety, in 2014, Kessler pitched the brothers an idea for a feature film based on his teaser short Montauk, which debuted in 2012. Kessler alleges that the Duffers stole his idea — or they did not pay him for using it as inspiration — for the first season of Stranger Things.
Kessler's short features "found footage" from the police department in Montauk, which is located near a highly-secretive government laboratory. One detail from early versions of the Stranger Things script supports Kessler's lawsuit: The Duffer Brothers originally titled the show Montauk. This detail was widely known, in part because both the series and Kessler's short film are based on the mysterious Montauk Project. Investigating the story, TMZ discovered that the original casting call for Stranger Things bore the title "Montauk." The Montauk Project was a mythologized — and likely fictional — government experiment program that took place on Long Island in the 1980s. It has been the subject of a number of works, including a 2014 documentary called Montauk Chronicles.
Representation for both the Duffer Brothers and Netflix have yet to respond to Refinery29's requests for comment.
This is the second time this year the Duffer brothers have come under scrutiny. Last month, a female crew member alleged on Instagram that the brothers were "verbally abusive" on the Stranger Things set, particularly to women. Netflix investigated the claim and found no wrongdoing. The brothers released a statement claiming they were "deeply upset" to hear that someone felt unwelcome on their set.
The statement concludes, "We remain totally committed to providing a safe and collaborative working environment for everyone on our production."