Is the 'Stranger Things' Plagiarism Lawsuit 'Completely Meritless'?

By Christopher Coble, Esq. on April 05, 2018 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

The best ideas have a ring of familiarity to them. That's why the best films and television shows are packed with either present-day authenticity or nostalgic elements from the past. Then again, there's a difference between, "Hey that looks familiar," and "Hey that was my idea."

Most fans of the hit Netflix series "Stranger Things" marvel at the array of period-specific elements, from costumes to set design and beyond. Filmmaker Charlie Kessler, on the other hand, looked at "Stranger Things" and said, "Hey that was my idea."

Made in Montauk?

According to Kessler's lawsuit, he made a film called "Montauk" that featured many of the same elements as "Stranger Things": a "missing boy," "a nearby military base conducting experiments on children," and "a monster from another dimension that looks like a toy." The film premiered at the 2012 Hamptons International Film Festival, and Kessler claims he pitched "the Montauk concept" to "Stranger Things" creators Matt and Ross Duffer during a Tribeca Film Festival party in April 2014, including giving them "the script, ideas, story and film."

Not only that, but "Stranger Things" was originally picked up by Netflix under the name "Montauk:"

"Described as a love letter to the '80s classics that captivated a generation, the series is set in 1980 Montauk, Long Island, where a young boy vanishes into thin air. As friends, family and local police search for answers, they are drawn into an extraordinary mystery involving top-secret government experiments, terrifying supernatural forces and one very strange little girl."

Similar Elements; Same Source?

"Mr. Kessler's claim is completely meritless," Duffer brothers' attorney Alex Kohner asserted this week. "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."

Another possible reason for the similarities between the two projects? Similar source material. As many have pointed out, Kessler's film and "Stranger Things" appear loosely based on popular sci-fi (or is it?) series "Montauk Project," the first book of which was published in 1992 and centers on secret government experiments involving time travel, teleportation, and even an alien monster that traveled through a time tunnel, destroying equipment and devouring researchers. Of course, the tunnel had to be shut down and the monster destroyed, but we'll have to read the book to find out if a little girl saved the day.

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