When it comes to Netflix's original shows and movies, the most groundbreaking of them all is arguably Stranger Things, the science fiction / horror series set in the 1980s. The show is notable for its originality and cleverness, bringing forward a plethora of interesting characters that viewers have grown to love during its first two seasons, in addition to a mysteriously engaging plot. Unfortunately, a recent report claims that Stranger Things isn't as original as it is purported to be.
In 2011, independent filmmaker Charlie Kessler directed and produced a short film named Montauk. It was a science fiction / horror flick based on the urban myths of Montauk, Long Island, where the government was purported to have done a number of illegal, secret activities dealing with aliens. The short film was made as a "spec film," with Kessler intending to turn it into a feature-length movie titled The Montauk Project.
Kessler claims that in 2014, at the Tribeca Film Festival, he pitched The Montauk Project to Stranger Things creators Matt and Ross Duffer. He showed them Montauk and attempted to convince them into funding it. Unfortunately for Kessler, both of the Duffer brothers seemed completely uninterested in the idea.
Kessler has recently gone public to accuse Matt and Ross Duffer of taking his idea without giving him any credit. The entire plot of Stranger Things not only bears an uncanny resemblance to Montauk, but the production title of the entire series was actually "Montauk."
While it's possible that this is pure coincidence, as the rumors about Montauk, Long Island were not an original creation by Charlie Kessler, Kessler insists that plagiarism did occur nonetheless. Considering that Kessler supposedly pitched the exact premise of Stranger Things to the Duffer brothers shortly before the Duffer brothers themselves pitched the idea to Netflix, there is certainly some questionable activity going on.
These kinds of stories are not uncommon in Hollywood. Spec writers will often dispute that their ideas were "stolen" for different movies, without any evidence to prove their points. Typically, these cases just pan out to be mere coincidence, but the situation of Charlie Kessler and Stranger Things may actually be more than that.
At the point when Kessler pitched the premise of The Montauk Project to the Duffer brothers, he had already produced an award-winning short film about it. Considering the moderate amount of publicity the project received, it's safe to say that Kessler had copywritten the idea long before it was even pitched to the Duffer brothers. This means that Kessler actually has a case, and may be able to actually do something with his accusations.
At this time, Netflix has not made any public statements responding to Kessler's accusations. This will certainly be an interesting case to watch going forward, if Kessler decides to take legal actions against the Stranger Things creators. Based on the evidence provided, it is very likely that something will come out of this, at least a settlement to Kessler in order to avoid seeing things carry out into a full court case. While all of Kessler's accusations need to be taken with a grain of salt, as all accusations of this nature should, there is certainly a trail of evidence in his favor. Netflix's groundbreaking series may have been plagiarized after all. This story appeared early at The Hollywood Reporter.