Update: On April 4, Matt and Ross Duffer responded to the lawsuit, calling it "completely meritless." Alex Kohner, who is representing the brothers, says plaintiff Charlie Kessler "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."
Original Story: It seems like Stranger Things just can't catch a break these days. Just weeks after a former crew member accused creators Matt and Ross Duffer of verbal abuse, it seems the show is facing a major lawsuit. According to a report from Entertainment Weekly, a filmmaker named Charlie Kessler claims he came up with the original idea and concept for the show, and the Duffers stole the entire project out from under him. While the water in this area is murky — just refer to the whole Shape of Water controversy if you're skeptical — there may be some evidence to back up the claims.
In the lawsuit, Kessler refers to a short film he made called Montauk. The project premiered in 2012 and even earned accolades at the Hamptons International Film Festival. Kessler says he pitched a series to the Duffers in 2014; it would be called The Montauk Project. He even claims to have "presented materials" of his own that added color to the potential project.
Here's where things get dicey. Stranger Things was originally called Montauk when the Duffer brothers were pitching it around. The inspiration comes from a very real conspiracy theory called "the Montauk Project," which clearly connects to Kessler's alleged original idea. Eventually, the Duffers' Netflix show became Stranger Things, but a quick glance through the history of Montauk will prove that they kept a lot of the concepts from that original story.
The one thing that's working in the Duffers' favor is the fact that they took their show in a very different direction. Kessler's short film is set in the '70s, and it's very focused on the conspiracies surrounding Montauk. The Duffers moved Stranger Things to Indiana, added their own tweaks to the story, and set it in the '80s and stuffed it with pop culture references and homages. As the show moves into its third season, it's clear that it's quite a ways away from the events that happened in Montauk, but there's no denying the connection between the two projects. Whether the case will move forward remains to be seen.